Protect your team's time and attention

We both agree that successive interruptions can kill your team productivity. So, it's obvious that you need to protect your team's time and attention from an increasingly demanding collaborative space. The ubiquity of internet-connected devices where you're always available leads to a growing expectation of an instant reply. In the Age of Interruption not replying instantly to a message is like turning away from a person in the middle of a conversation, and you know how rude is that.

Green Dot Syndrome

Since a few years ago a new wave of companies tried to take advantage and make obsolete the primary channel people love to hate, the email. So, the business group chat was a natural approach to solve the problem of messy inboxes exploding with spam and hundreds of emails with absolutely no value for the work people are performing. The ambition to make email a 20th-century tool and transform internal communication into one line at a time brought us here and quickly increased to a scale beyond anyone can manage.

We've learned a lot during this times. We've learned that we need to set rules and stay aware of the channel used by default to communicate inside the team. Communication is about people, and if you use chat as default channel you need to know that you may be unconsciously replacing the complaints about messy inbox with the pressure of the green dot next to the photo showing everyone that you're working - we called it Green dot syndrome.

The anxiety of missing out

The problem of group chat isn't the concept itself. In fact, it has a much deeper origin and relies on the ambition of everyone in the industry to achieve the most addicting product, and like any other addiction, the group chat will lead to an unhealthy way to stay at work. In mid-term, your group chat will be like a giant roller coaster with a variable speed and no safety belt that require a permanent alert state in order to stay on top of what's happening around you. As Linda Stone describe in "Continuous partial attention" each person is motivated by "a desire to be a live node on the network", the unconscious willingness to connect and stay connected will lead to an exponential increase of messages exchange between your team, which dilutes the ability to focus on current activity and drives attention to scan opportunities that are taking place in live-chat.

That unwritten culture of business live chat where effort is dictated by how "green" you are will inevitably increase distractions during the work day and, in the long run, decrease the overall productivity. Just keep in mind that of over stimulation will produce anxiety and lack of fulfillment, and your team needs time and space to get into the zone.

Balancing "Me" and "We"

Communication at work has its own rhythm and we need to respect that. Group chat is always breaking the boundaries of your private space just because you are green and green means you are available now. The modern group chat has that anxiety and nervousness culture by design, building the growing expectation of availability - if you are reachable you should reply. That kind of expectation will prevent you to perform a full immersive job for just a few hours and will steal your most scarce resources, time and attention.

When you have a one line message approach with low barriers to entry you are tricking your brain to think this type of communication is inoffensive. This fragmented method of communication will produce negative effects in productivity since leads to a less self-awareness - if the question is relevant and needs immediate action or could wait.

Being unavailable it’s cool

Being unavailable doesn't mean you are taking a break, being unavailable should be a message to everybody that you're working and you need space to focus on getting things done. The truly collaborative space supports solitude and incentivizes private time for contemplation and thoughtful decisions. Interruptions are the worst killer of your productivity, and live chat is a serial killer. With continuous notifications popping up on your screen these interruptions have a cost, a very high cost because people need long hours of uninterrupted work.

Live chat is a serial killer

In the end, the choice you make on how your team communicates could have a real impact on work culture. Chat is great for quick interactions or when the problem could affect the current operation of your business, but when a significant slice of your internal communication is running through live chat you are definitively damaging your team's morale and making them feel exhausted.
As a manager, you need to set rules to preserve the sanity of the workplace. We know that's appealing to jump into a conversation and speak to everyone at once, but you need to know that someone else is on the other side trying to focus and get work done.

Daniel Lobo

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