Slack vs. Email: Why You Need to Create a Team Communication Standard
As more and more companies allow their employees to work remotely and distributed teams are becoming the new normal, team communication changes as well. While some team members may try to hold onto the ease and rapidity of being able to walk into a coworkers office to ask a question, others cherish the increased productivity they get from silencing tools like chat and email for a few hours.
When members of the same team have different communication expectations like that, problems arise. It's therefore crucial to establish a set of rules that clearly state
- which tool to use for each type of communication.
- how quickly team members should respond on each communication platform.
This prevents people from getting frustrated because they don't get an immediate response, or through their preferred channel. It also removes decision fatigue as team members always know which tool to use, boosting productivity and employee happiness.
Today, we'll compare Slack vs. email and discuss when each should be used. First, let's have a look at Slack.
Why Use Slack Instead of Email?
When Slack launched, it wanted to replace email. It was a bold goal and - in my opinion - not the right one. As a chat-first tool, Slack lends itself better to those types of interactions that need speed and allow for casualness.
As such, it's a great place to organize daily watercooler moments, have weekly team-building chats, or hold quick brainstorm sessions. Be careful with the latter, though, as complex projects and ideas are often still better discussed face-to-face on a video call.
Other instances when Slack is best are:
- to get a short answer to an easy, non-urgent question.
- to share, chat, and collaborate in real-time.
- to talk about non-work-related things.
Another reason why Slack is better than email for these rapid types of communication is because of how easy it is to just type and send a message. Compare that to email, where you have to select a message, click reply, and often have to open the message in its own proper window before you can finally start typing.
Unlike email, where it's easy to keep track of threads and scroll back through older conversations, using Slack is all about moving forward. Catching up on conversations in Slack can be a bit of a hassle, which brings us to the tool's largest pain point:
Because of its fast and chat-focused nature, team members may spend too much of their time checking the app for new messages instead of focusing deeply on core tasks. To prevent this from happening, have clear moments when people should be available on Slack (if needed) and make sure everybody understands that they can turn off Slack notifications and don't need to reply to new messages instantly.
Why Use Email Instead of Slack?
Removing the need for continuous monitoring is essential for productive email use as well, especially as email is the best medium to get a detailed, well-thought-out message across. Knowing that you don't need to reply straight away allows you to take a step back and properly think about the problem presented or the question asked before you get back to someone.
If you're the sender, you can take the time to provide all necessary information in one email, preventing needless back-and-forths.
Because it takes longer to craft a well-written email than it does a quick chat reply, this communication medium is better suited for non-urgent messages. On top of that, email is the best way to include someone external in a conversation.
When Neither is the Right Choice
As great as Slack and email are for team communication, sometimes they're just not the right choice. Two instances where you'll want to schedule a video call instead, are when you need to discuss something complex, or when you need to address a sensitive topic.
And then there are emergencies. Prioritizing asynchronous communication within remote and distributed teams means that not everyone will be watching their Slack and email all of the time. This is great when everything is going smoothly, but when there's an emergency, you need to be able to reach someone within a matter of minutes. The best way to do that is... to give them a call.
No, it's not hip. No, it's not new. But it works. Given the wide range of other tools we have to communicate with team members nowadays, you can create the internal rule that phone calls are for emergencies only. That way, when someone's phone rings, they know they have to answer it.
How to Make Slack and Email work together
Regardless of the popularity Slack gained in recent years, it's definitely not an email killer and it shouldn't be either. Since both tools are best used for different purposes, it's not a matter of whether you should use Slack vs. email, but about how you can make them work together efficiently.
As mentioned before, one way to do that is to have clear internal communication guidelines that stipulate which tool to use for what type of communication. However, in reality, different team members may prefer one tool over the other or spend more time in one tool than the other due to the nature of their work.
Additionally, there's a loss of productivity each time someone needs to switch from Slack to email or from email to Slack, not to mention that information gets dispersed as projects get discussed both via email and on Slack.
The solution? Using Gmelius to integrate Gmail and Slack.
The existing integration only allows you to send email from Slack (in the form of Slack messages) and to send email to Slack, but with Gmelius, emails are converted into actual shared conversations in Slack, and shared conversations into email threads.
Sounds good? Learn more about Gmelius’ 2-way integration with Slack and remove communication friction within your team.