Slack is NOT Killing Email

Back in September, there was a lot of media coverage on Slack’s new revamped posts feature, and how it is an alternative to email. However, let’s call a spade a spade: this new feature is attempting to be email or, more appropriately, a widely distributed email hack.

Hats off to Slack’s adoption rate, growth, and core offering, but they basically created an email hack by granting the capability to deliver a message to multiple groups (channels) in order to keep users within their platform. Unfortunately, the functionality doesn’t compare to the offering of a full email client, and Slack simply doesn’t match the productivity that email enables within organizations. So…far from killing email.

Slack is doing great when it comes to group chats and team collaboration because it is simple to use and quite virulent within small teams and companies. Overall, it is a very unique approach to unified messaging but it is not, as some of have suggested, actually “redefining” email.

Another Buzz to Chase

Slack simply doesn’t provide the comprehensive communication coverage that business users are accustomed to. Even the smallest startups can’t rely on it for holistic communications and growth. It ultimately doesn’t add to employee productivity, but rather becomes a habit that requires constant checking for the informational FOMO. Except in this case, no one is really missed out on anything of value.

Justin Glow of the Verge tried to unplug from Slack for a week and explained how he originally didn’t feel Slack was a distraction when he began using it and thought it was actually benefiting his productivity by keeping him in the loop when small windows of time were available. However, he felt it became an impulsive habit, as he kept frequently checking it and asking himself whether he was actually being productive or really filling a void with information that didn’t really matter.

As with anything else if the workplace, if Slack usage doesn’t add or contribute to the tasks at hand, then it may actually be harming efforts to get work done. Productivity should be the focus for the workplace, and logic dictates that an easier way to have several chats simultaneously does not seem to assist productivity and focus, but rather increases the noise they have to contend with throughout the day. This is captured in a great summary of Slack from the AWL:

“There may be offices, and types of jobs, for which sitting in a chatroom all day makes everyone more productive. This does not seem to be the case in online media, which is most effusive in its praise for the service. Slack is where people make jokes and register their presence; it is where stories and editing and administrating are discussed as much for self-justification as for the completion of actual goals. Working in an active Slack (or Campfire for that matter!) is a productivity nightmare, especially if you don’t hate your coworkers. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either rationalizing or delusional.”

If Email Can’t Die, Can We Make It Easier to Live With?

Even those who probably feel the pain of email the most still rely on it. Adobe posted results to a survey on email, stating: “…inbox[es] full of hundreds of emails…are here to stay and will remain a constant in the workplace.” Email is a requirement for internal communication, as well as with external contacts. It is also worth noting that Adobe invested in Convo (a Slack competitor) which is pivoting to project management, as chatting wasn’t really cutting it.

Slack is a wonderful tool, for what it is, but it does not replace email, nor is it close to killing it. Email is still the necessary medium in companies for effective communication, in order to get things done.


This was originally posted on Knowmail’s Blog.


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