DigIO Australia
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DigIO Australia

The True Cost of “@here”

Photo by Jake Nelson

If you’re seeing this article it’s probably for one of two reasons:

  • You love using Slack so much that you’re reading articles on Slack etiquette for fun.
  • Someone shared this article in a thread after you used “@here”.

Either way, it’s a positive that you’re here. By the end of this article you’ll hopefully see how using “@here” is usually bad Slack etiquette and how it affects the team as a whole.

Let’s start by covering when you should use “@here”:

  • You need to notify most people in a channel of something important and there are no conflicting established communications patterns.
  • You’ve followed all established communications patterns but your query isn’t being answered (after waiting as long as possible) and there’s no indication as to who to directly contact.

That’s it; that’s the only time you should use it.

What’s wrong with using “@here”?

Notifications are distracting. Every time one goes off you get a little rush of dopamine encouraging you to prioritise them over the work you’re already engrossed in. There’s a million articles out there that talk about the negative impacts of notifications, that’s not really what this article is about. This article is about non-relevant notifications which are caused most times that someone uses “@here” in Slack.

The time cost of incorrect usage of “@here” increases exponentially based on the number of people notified and the fact is, most of the time these notifications do not need to go out to everyone. There’s usually one or two people that really need to know.

Of course, there’s exceptions, like channels that exist for notifications, an example of this would be a company announcements channel.

Check the number of people at the top right of a channel. Obviously the number of people in a given channel ranges substantially based on its purpose. A software dev team might have 5–10 members while a support channel could have thousands of people. Most of these people are impacted when you use “@here”.

Studies suggest that most people will check notifications, perhaps not immediately but within a few minutes. While minor notifications aren’t terribly distracting (as you can get back to the task quickly), the data indicates that distractions not only delay returning your focus but have an effect on your mood, increasing stress.

There’s also evidence to suggest that people come up with coping mechanisms for interruptions when interrupted often enough (such as brevity in conversations & emails) but I’d be concerned about a mob coming after me by that point.

The fun time cost exercise (I’m a rage at parties)

Let’s take an example where people incorrectly post “@here” into a support channel.

For the example we’ll make a couple of assumptions:

  • There are 700 members in our channel, 70% of them (490 people) will see the notification (eventually), almost all of them will not have a dedicated time they allow for distractions. We’ll refer to this value as <interruptedPeople>
  • For most of them, the “@here” will be pretty obviously not related to them and so they will get back to work quickly (long distractions take longer to get back into the groove of the original work), say 1 minute (490 x 1 = 490 minutes cost). We’ll refer to this value as <minutesCost>
  • Someone will post it into this support channel once every 3 weeks on average.We’ll refer to this as <interruptionFrequency>
  • 254 working days in a year

<workingDays> / <daysInWeek> = 36.28 working weeks

<workingWeeks> / <interruptionFrequency> = 12 “@here” notifications per year; we’ll refer to this as <yearlyInterruptions>.

<yearlyInterruptions> * <minutesCost> = 5,880 minutes or 98 business hours per year for a single channel. How many channels receive “@here” with this frequency? It really adds up when you’re talking a small number of interruptions to a large number of people over a long period of time.

The company pays for these hours, as do the staff members with their productivity, focus, and enthusiasm.

We didn’t really factor in the effect of the distraction on the individual because that’s really hard to quantify. Data suggests that people don’t really make more mistakes but it does cost time and energy of all of the recipients. If you interrupt someone’s work for something that isn’t relevant to them, they will most likely be more stressed than they were before hand.

Professionally, using bad Slack etiquette can reflect poorly on you. People will make assumptions that you don’t look or plan before acting.

How to know if everyone needs to know about your post

Determine the type of channel you’re in

Look at the channel you’re in, what kind of channel is it?

Is it for general team communication, support, or updates? This can affect your decision to use “@here”.

For example, if you’re posting in a channel used to support a tool or product, they may have a dedicated support person already watching the channel waiting for you to post and thus wouldn’t be required.

Alternatively, if you’re required to post a team wide announcement in a team’s primary channel, that would make sense.

Check the topic or pinned post

Check the topic at the top of the channel. It often links to channel etiquette/guidelines or other useful docs that the team would like you to review before posting.

Look for established patterns

Look at the recent history of posts to see if others are using “@here” and what was the community’s reaction to that. If you don’t see anyone else using it, you probably shouldn’t be either.

Obviously there’s some common-sense and a bit of intuition that goes into this but do your best to look for signs of established patterns in the channel and follow them.

Consider the urgency

So you’ve looked for a topic and there is none, also there’s no defined patterns as far as you can see. You can consider the urgency to determine if you should post with “@here”, not just the urgency to you, but the larger scale urgency. Is it blocking your work? A team’s work? Or an entire area of the business? These factors impact the urgency, and thus, the need to notify everyone.

Tips for avoiding others’ “@here” posts

  • Change the notification settings for a channel by right-clicking on it, and selecting “Change Notifications”, then uncheck “@channel” and “@here”.
  • You can mute a a channel entirely or leave it via right-click context menu.
  • Pause notifications for you entirely in Slack by clicking on your profile photo (top right) and selecting Pause Notifications. Pause them to coincide with Lunch so that you can come back from your break and review everything that’s outstanding in Slack before getting engrossed in another task.

Thanks for reading!

Sorry if someone shared this with you, I guess I’ve been “@here”ed one too many times (yeah, I’m making it a verb, what are you gonna do about it #rebel).

If someone shared this with you because you “@here”ed a few too many people don’t be offended, we all make mistakes, this is just their way of politely asking you to refer to channel guidelines (if they exist) or follow existing channel patterns.

Let’s end this on a positive note! Take 20 seconds to breath (you earned it), take another 20 seconds to reflect on this information and what you will change if anything about your Slack practices before you get back to it.

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Jake Nelson

Jake Nelson

He/Him, Nerdy husband/father. Photography enthusiast. Cloud/tech obsessed. Neurodivergent.