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I Spent The Last 2 Months "Away & DND" on Work’s Slack
And my two goals were achieved.
And my two goals were achieved.
Feeling overwhelmed and unproductive, I decided to change my status to “Away” and enable “Do Not Disturb” on my work’s Slack workspace.
After 2 months running this social experiment, here’s what I observed (in no particular order):
Direct calls were made impossible, due to Slack’s DND policies. This obviously reduced unsolicited and unscheduled calls at random hours.
The amount of tagging and DMs reduced considerably.
Despite the number of tags and DMs received, the average number of messages sent (by me) didn’t change.
Something to consider is that I don’t have fixed working hours — sometimes you’ll find me working PST (GMT-8), sometimes CST (GMT+8), sometimes none of those, or something in-between. So letting people know when I’m actually “online” makes a difference, as opposed to someone that works 9–5 every day, for instance.
What changed after some time:
Some people noticed. They asked why I changed my status on Slack. Multiple times.
People adapted to my new normal, and started sending DMs regardless of my status. (This could be just a perception, though)
Other people adopted the same behavior and switched their statuses to "Away" permanently.
Some people that had access to other means of contact started using them to reach out to me when needed (such as Facebook Messenger and Telegram).
What didn’t change:
Emergency calls still took place. Sometimes I’d initiate them when needed, sometimes a group call would be posted in a public channel.
Scheduled calls still took place.
No work emails were received.
I still don’t get disturbed via my phone because my phone itself was on DND before and during the experiment. More about this can be explained in a separate post.
I had two goals with this experiment, and I can say they were achieved.
Eradicated unsolicited calls at random hours
Calls and other means of synchronous communication is one of productivity’s worst enemies and should be avoided whenever possible.
Reduced the number of DMs
Direct messages are often used as a synchronous mean of communication (in which the parties often expect replies in a timely manner). They also centralize information somewhere the rest of the team can’t access. When DMs are discouraged, the sender will see themselves posting the message in channels (ideally public ones), which is better for a number of reasons. For instance, if the intended receiver of the message can’t answer at that time, someone might pick up the discussion sooner, and if this conversation needs to be referenced later, it can be.
DM is a good way to catch up on a personal level. Discuss things unrelated to work, things that don’t concern other colleagues, or use it as a synchronous mean of communication when you can’t be bothered to call.
It was an interesting social experiment to run. I could’ve asked people to schedule calls ahead of time, or asked them to post in public channels instead of sending me DMs, but that wouldn’t be as fun as being able to document this experiment ;)
I’d say that it was more delightful to work with a little bit of extra calmness, but I’m ready to enable Slack notifications and show my online status back again. Things may be different now, from 2 months ago. We’ll see.
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Disclaimer: this social experiment took place in late 2020, which is when I initially wrote this story’s draft.