Team messengers: productivity enhancer or productivity killer?

This is a guest blog post by Bhavin Turakhia, Founder and CEO of Flock

Today, collaboration is a key to a company’s success. It is therefore critical to understand that collaboration itself can be a roadblock to optimum productivity. This has always been the case. For years, we have spent our time and energy on not-so-productive collaborative activities such as emails and meetings. For example, meetings have been known to consume a large share of our working hours, in many cases 40-50% of the workday.

In an environment where organisations are increasingly going global and teams are dispersed across time zones, teammates are required to be far more agile and quick when responding to one another to complete tasks in a timely manner. Email isn’t the right tool for employees needing instant responses from their global teammates, and thus, team messaging apps have emerged as a collaboration tool that’s much more conducive to productivity. Team messengers deliver exactly what most organisations need to stay relevant and competitive in today’s business landscape — faster sharing of information, increased efficiency, and the ability to make quicker decisions.

In fact, team messengers are touted as the collaboration tool of choice for the workplace of the future. No wonder some of the biggest companies in the world have jumped into the enterprise and team messaging chat space.

However, one of the most common concerns around the use of team messengers is whether they are really helping us become more productive or doing just the opposite by way of regular interruptions to our workflow. So should we stop collaborating to keep ourselves more productive at work? Of course not! Without collaboration, a business will stop working like a well-oiled machine. The answer lies in collaborating more effectively and ensuring that team messengers are used in a way that optimises productivity.

Eliminating workplace communication challenges

One of the commonly cited problems with the use of team messengers is that when conversations flow in real time, it’s difficult to pretend that a message went unnoticed (and therefore, un-responded to) as opposed to emails, which most people do not feel obligated to respond to immediately. In the world of fast, real-time communications, not responding immediately is unacceptable, and worse, it can even be perceived as rudeness — just like ending a face-to-face conversation abruptly. However, team messengers help workers tackle this problem by allowing them to create a time blocking schedule through a simple ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature and notify teams they’re part of that they do not wish to be disturbed at that time. This way, if they receive a message during this ‘blocked out’ time, they can delay their response without offending anyone.

One of the main reasons why people remain glued to their messaging apps or emails— even when messages do not involve them directly —  is the fear of missing something important. Doing so hurts their productivity to a great extent. This is another area in which certain team messengers emerge as a better way to coordinate and communicate with colleagues.

Enterprise messaging apps allow users to simultaneously be part of multiple teams. They can access all conversations that concern them from a single interface and set notifications for critical projects or discussions. At the same time, they can also mute less important conversations or groups that they can respond to at leisure, for example the office football group. Or they can simply activate the ‘do not disturb’ mode. These features stop unnecessary messages diverting users’ attention and allow them to focus on their most critical tasks.

Blocking distractions: using team messengers effectively

Unlike emails, that are both interruptive and slow in response, team messengers not only help users increase their productivity, but also help users work more efficiently by offering time-saving features such as sharable to-do lists, file sharing, team polls and so much more.

Team messaging apps also offer an effective platform for teams to share knowledge that often gets lost among big teams. This is a major plus considering that the average knowledge worker experiences a 20% productivity loss while looking for company information or colleagues who can help with specific tasks.

Unlike other traditional forms of collaboration such as email, team messengers allow various app integrations. For example, Google Drive can be integrated within a team messenger, allowing users to collaborate on documents while accessing their messages within one place. Interestingly, businesses can also build and integrate customised apps into their team messenger, to suit their unique needs. For example, companies can customise the Meeting scheduler app that helps users schedule meetings, invite participants, get participant feedback on meeting slots, and view team calendars at a glance – all from within their team messenger.

Thus, when used properly, team messengers are not a productivity killer. Their features enable users to disconnect from the world at large when they want to focus on work, and to be notified if a message concerns something urgent and collaborate in real time when they need to. Some tools also allow users to pin their most important conversations to the top of their chat window, so that they can filter chats by level of importance. This way, nothing important gets missed.

As most users will attest to, interruptions are a necessary evil when it comes to collaboration. Therefore, it is important for employees across teams and functions to learn to balance collaboration with task management. When used properly, team messengers enable employees to manage their time while collaborating with their teammates seamlessly, in real time. In this way, collaboration tools can be seen as a solution for the productivity vs. collaboration conundrum.