Today Slack hit Wall Street and closed at over 48% in its first day of trading. If you do not know what Slack is, chances are you work with people that you see five days a week. Slack is a chat system with which business place employees communicate – through an app, usually. This system is successful because they got to this space nearly-first and did the right things at the right times over the past several years.
“It’s a milestone day for us,” said a Slack representative on Twitter, “but also a day of thinking about work. About ours, and yours, and how grateful we are that you let us be part of your working day, and how we can continue to try and make it better.” Slack’s creators are all about work, and aren’t about to publicly acknowledge that their app is used for more than just work-related chat.
NOTE: The following speaks about office culture, especially when it comes to remote working and the nature of the modern workplace. This example of a work culture may not be your own, and your experience may be radically different from what I’ve perceived amongst colleagues from businesses of all sorts – especially tech journalism.
Slack is used for all manner of chat, both private and in-office. With Slack, a business owner can keep tabs on her employees in several ways, including an indicator which says the user is at their desk (or more accurately, they’ve been moving their mouse pointer around their screen at some point recently, on their desktop machine.)
The boss can send a message to their employee at any time, day or night. Some workplaces have a set of expectations that come with Slack because of the features with which it’s sold. This can mean an employee is expected to take and respond to every message sent, at any time of day.
But it’s not as if this bit wasn’t possible before. They had text messaging, right? Email has been around for a while. But cultural norms in email and text messaging aren’t the same as the office-based culture of Slack. With Slack, the worker is expected to be tuned in, always.
The positive side of this specific situation is the addictive nature of the connection. When an owner of a business is able to communicate with any employee at any time, they can grow used to that ability, rather quickly. An employee can then make the case that since they’re available at any time of day, their physical presence in the physical office isn’t the most important part of work.
The success of slack comes from concentration on one niche – the remote workplace. This one way of working became extremely common over the past decade, and Slack’s been working on perfecting the art of the cloud-based water cooler for the past five years. At the right time and with the right tool.