What Do Chat Rooms and Open Space Offices Have in Common?
October 16, 2020
The modern person almost always has a smartphone connected to the Internet in their pocket, on which several messenger applications for social networks are installed. The chat apps have captured almost all segments of the population - from first graders to retirees, everyone has at least one messenger. And chat rooms have become an important part of corporate culture for the vast majority of companies.
Our company has always worked on a hybrid remote scheme - one part of the office is located in one city, one part is in another, there are also branches in other countries. Therefore, it is extremely important for us that the whole team stays connected and on the same page. Even if my colleagues and I sit in the same office, we often communicate in chats in order to preserve the context for everyone. That’s why chats are very good: they provide both contextual support and instant, interactive communication.
In general, chats are very similar to open space offices - all colleagues are together, everyone can see each other, hear each other, everything is in constant motion.
But this is also the main problem of chats. Just like the open space, this is a very noisy, loud place where it is sometimes impossible to concentrate and hear your own thoughts.
Now the situation is such that you can spend a whole working day simply answering messages in chats, without getting any work done. The problem now is not how to connect to the chat and be in the loop of what is happening, but how to disconnect from the chat and not be distracted by constantly incoming messages. In the office, it’s very easy to understand when it is better not to bother your colleagues. But in chats, this is impossible to see, so you can easily distract a person from some important task by texting at the wrong time.
So what do you do about it? How do you keep chats under control and not give them too much focus and energy?
These are the guiding principles in our team:
- We devote a separate chat to each topic to avoid confusion.
- We only communicate in Mattermost. No third-party apps, all chats should be in only one place.
- If we see that a colleague is not in Mattermost, it means that they are busy now, so we will not bother them.
- Everything related to work is discussed only in chats. If a work issue was discussed in private messages, one-on-one, we can automatically assume that there was no such conversation. Private correspondence is a violation of the very meaning of the chat. We cannot refer to what was discussed personally when it comes time to debrief.
- We do not use chat as a management tool. Other applications should be used for setting tasks. Chat is for discussion only.
At the same time, the following problems remain unresolved:
- It is necessary to ensure that a person enters the chat only when it is really required of them when something that directly concerns them happens in the conversation. How to achieve this is not yet clear.
- Today, there is not a single chat that has a good mechanism for marking channels or messages as important or, on the contrary, unimportant.
- There is no generally accepted culture of communication in chat rooms - for example, we, within our team, still cannot agree on whether it is necessary to write ”hi” in the chat or whether it is inappropriate or ridiculous.
- We often invite our customers to chats, however, there is no adequate way to integrate messengers with a CRM in order to somehow unload and record the most important information after communicating with the customer.
Previously, the task of any modern team was to learn how to use chat rooms. Now the challenge is to learn how to stop using them when required. We need to be able to work for several hours without being distracted by constant notifications, and this is a problem that chat developers and us, as users, have yet to solve.