It’s often hard to reach one or more of our team.
This is deliberate. We spend many hours each day not checking Slack, Skype, email, or any social media tool. We’re busy, like you, getting real work done. If there is truly an issue which needs an urgent response, we all have each other’s number (hasn’t happened yet).
Collaboration tools trick us into thinking we need to be easier to reach. They suggest we should be constantly interacting and sharing ideas/opinions on each other’s work. It’s a myth.
We need to be harder to reach. We need to find more time to do deep work. This is work that involves deep thought, research, careful implementation. You can’t do that with constant interruptions and external pressure to check for new questions every few minutes.
It feels good to answer a question. You feel you’re adding value and being a helpful team player. But the cost is really high. Especially when it interrupts the work you were hired to do. You weren’t hired to answer your colleague’s questions, so don’t spend most of your time doing it.
The best collaboration tools don’t encourage people to ask and answer questions every few minutes. They make it easier to get the information without asking questions.
If I do have a question, I can send a message on Slack and wait for the person to reply. If I’m on an urgent deadline (and believe this deadline trumps whatever the recipient is working on), I can call and get an immediate response. This doesn’t happen because few deadlines are truly urgent (and we don’t leave truly important work to the last minute!).
Slack is a great tool to pick up your messages, respond to questions, and update what you’re doing (between periods of deep concentration). Anything beyond that is better served by scheduling a call or meeting in person. The best way to show respect for someone’s work is to give them the time and headspace to get on with it.