Why Do We Have Focus Hours on Slack

If you're not using Slack, you're missing out big time. At least, that's what other developers, marketers, and professionals are raving about. There's no denying that Slack puts an end to missed emails that are buried in your inbox and endless text messaging that's putting a strain on your fingers and phone. In this article we will be talking about "Slack focus hours" we've introduced to our team and what benefits we've seen so far.

How Slack Can Be Counterproductive

With multiple channels on Slack created, companies can manage conversations and information easily on a single platform. There are no more bouncing email attachments to department managers and of course, no excuses for not staying up to date especially with the constant notifications you received for activities in the chat room. There may be many valid reasons to be on Slack, but it is a double sided blade that can backfire when productivity is concerned. Slack is characterized by its channels that make conversations easier. But this flexibility can be distracting, especially when you’re in one with a large group of members. Blame that on humans as we are very sociable creatures. In physical workplaces, the phenomenon of water-cooler gossip is inevitable. However, physical spaces limit the ongoing interaction. In Slack, where every co-worker is on the group, a simple off-topic comment can lead to a stream of irrelevant chatters that pushes work aside. We’re not implying that interactions between co-workers are bad. It’s just that they should be limited to a certain period where it’s not distracting other team members. Often, even the most focused member may join in the thrill of discussing the hottest topics on the Slack channel.

What Are Focus Hours

At Netcore, we don’t believe in robbing our developers of their rights in having friendly banter on Slack. But we prevent such conversations from happening in a specific period which we call “focus hours”. As the name implies, focus hours is a specific duration where idle conversations are prohibited. During the focus hours, co-workers are discouraged from having any sort of conversations on Slack, whether it is formal and informal. This allows each to focus on the tasks at hand with minimal disruption. Of course, we do make exceptions if there are urgent communications needed to sort things out between members. To ensure each member is aware of the focus hours, we configured an automatic reminder on Slack that states “Focus Hours ON” at 1200 and “Focus Hours OFF” at 1600. This is done across all channels and allows each team member to concentrate on their task in a distraction-free Slack environment for four continuous hours. Implementing this simple maneuver saves the trouble of deactivating notifications which some may forget to turn it back on again. You wouldn’t want to risk missing out important updates, or interesting chats that come along the way. Besides, setting up an automatic reminder with Slack is a simple process.

How To Set Up Focus Hours On Slack

If you’re a seasoned user on Slack, you will notice the similarity with a conventional virtual chatroom. It uses a broad range of slash commands to activate various features. Unlike conventional chatroom platforms, Slack’s slash commands are more intelligent. To set up focus hours on Slack, you’ll need to invoke the /remind command. It allows you to configure a reminder that is directed at a person or channel. You can insert the reminder text and specify when the reminder will be shown. Here are the commands used to set up the focus hours in our Slack channels.

  • /remind #developers “Focus Hours ON” at 12:00 every weekday
  • /remind #developers “Focus Hours OFF” at 16:00 every weekday

You’ll be amazed that Slack is intelligent enough to interpret date and time in various formats. It also helps to know that reminders set for channels cannot be snoozed. This means every member will be aware of the focus hours and there’s no reason for an idle chat to occur.

Does Using Slack Focus Hours Increase Productivity?

When was the last time you’re working without being tempted to check out the latest comments on Slack? Even if you knew that it has nothing to do with the project you’re working on. Or did you get sleepless nights because Slack has taken a firm grip over your life? Like it or not, Slack is here to stay. As much as it’s a useful communication tool, it is also highly addictive for the wrong reasons. You get drawn into exciting but non-productive chatters. Or you may spend countless hours messing with Slackbot, the resident chatbot that pretends it’s human. Having focus hours allow a brief window of time where you’re free from Slack. It gives you a glimpse of what life was before Slack invaded. And you’ll end up amazed by the increase in productivity as you make every minute, that would otherwise be spent on Slack, count. The fact is, none of our team members complained about the lack of distraction even though that means suppressing their urge to chatter until the focus hours is off. Of course, projects are getting delivered on time, thanks to the sustained concentration during the 4 hours of a Slack-less period.

The Bottom Line

As with any technological creations, there are always pros and cons. Slack is a breakthrough in workplace communications, and it should remain so. Ultimately, it relies on self-discipline in using Slack productively and implementing focus hours truly help. Check out our other article, where we’re sharing some more tips on how to increase the efficiency of your teams with customized slack statuses.

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