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Slack vs. Email: Knowing When to Leave Your Inbox


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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to operate remotely. And for those that have been able to successfully make the switch, it’s been largely rewarding.

Remote working is only going to become more prominent as the years go on. It’s possible many companies will realize there’s no need to spend rent on office space when everyone already has a laptop and desk at home.

But with this new way of life will come new challenges, such as learning to stay in contact with everyone. In an office, you can simply pull people aside and chat with them about anything you need.

It becomes a bit more difficult with remote working, especially because you don’t know if someone will step away from their desk for a while.

Email has long been the go-to way to communicate with others when you’re far away. But when it comes to the workplace, Slack and similar apps are paving the way to the future.

When Should You Email a Coworker?

Email is the tried-and-true method of talking to someone remotely. However, with more communication options than ever before, it’s more of a nuisance when it comes to the workplace.

We recently conducted a study with our 746 active customers about what their biggest complaint working home during the pandemic was.

Astonishingly, 65 percent of those surveyed said they were annoyed by the amount of time spent in their inboxes day to day, feeling overloaded.

e mail to a coworker

This was the most commonly cited issue with remote work and working from home, relative to all other remote work-related stresses.

Unless you have a separate work email, it’s possible you’re getting everyone to a single account.

That means that important email about when those documents are due goes to the same place you receive coupons from Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Another annoying thing about email is that important messages can get lost in the shuffle.

You may have hundreds of individual emails within a single thread, and it can be a pain to try to find that one bit of information you need.

That doesn’t mean you have to close out your email entirely just yet. There are still a couple of instances where work emails are encouraged.

For example, email works great when you need to include someone outside of the company in the conversation.

If you often work with contractors or freelancers, you may not want to give them accounts on the company Slack. An email makes sense in this instance.

Additionally, email provides a clear record. If you’re discussing vital terms of service, then email may be preferable.

That way if someone tries to negate something you said or did, you have a comprehensive record of everything discussed.

In general, use email sparingly. When Slack or texting just isn’t an option, email will always be there for you.

Plus, when you only use email some of the time, your coworkers won’t be as annoyed when they hear that “ding” (or see that notification pop up).

When Should You Talk With a Coworker Over Slack?

Slack is a great new communication app that you can download on your computer or smartphone. It will notify you when you receive a message, and you can respond quickly.

It’s easy enough to download the app, but when should you rely on Slack? Generally speaking, Slack is great for when you need a response right away.

You may have a quick question about something and don’t want to risk your message getting lost in someone’s email box.

Plus, since you can download Slack to your phone, people can even see your message when they’re away from their desks.

people holding a slack logo

Slack is also great when you want to communicate in real time. The app even allows you to make calls through it, so you can set up a time for everyone to be available and reach out directly through the app.

Finally, Slack is a lot less formal than email.

Therefore, if you want to joke around with someone or send a funny meme, Slack is the best venue for that.

You might be out of the office, but that shouldn’t mean you have to avoid the same kind of camaraderie with your coworkers.

Another advantage of Slack is that you can actually set times when the app “goes to sleep.” That means you won’t receive notifications in the evening when you want to relax.

Slack helps you set clear boundaries between your work and personal lives.

When Should You Call or Video Chat a Coworker?

Email and Slack are great, but sometimes, you really just need to talk with someone over the phone to get their viewpoint on something.

There are also video chat services like Skype and Zoom where you can talk with people over the computer and actually see them.

A few notes before you try to reach out with these methods.

Typically, it’s a good idea to message someone over Slack first to see when they’re available. You don’t want to risk someone missing your call because they were busy with something else.

With Slack, you can set up a time, so you know everyone will be involved.

Phone calls are usually best when you need to discuss something complicated. It can be tough to get your point across over Slack, and you don’t want to inundate your coworkers with long paragraphs of text.

A phone call can help prevent people from becoming more confused.

Additionally, a phone call is best when you need to deliver sensitive information, according to data from HubSpot.

It should go without saying, but, as a professional courtesy, you should never fire someone over Slack.

Phone calls give you the advantage of making clear your tone of voice, so people know how to respond to sensitive subjects.

Which Form of Communication Is Best for Your Workplace?

No one method of communication is inherently better than the other. It all depends on the context.

Also, all workplaces are different. Some more old-school companies may prefer for everything to be handled via email and phone calls. If you work at an upstart, then you may need to learn how to use Slack efficiently.

It’s recommended to pay attention to how your other workers are using these methods of communication and respond accordingly. That way, you can reach out when you need to and not fill up anyone’s inbox too much.

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Dan Fries

Dive deep into the mind of BlueTree CEO Dan Fries and explore a wealth of knowledge on the nuances of link-building and digital marketing.

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