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Is This Just Another Thing?

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I get the question "is this just another thing?" a lot, and so I think the answer a lot. The question is definitely reasonable, and being able to use existing tools to accomplish everyday tasks is appealing. Plus, considering the amount of new technologies and software we’ve all had to learn in the past few years, a little hesitancy towards having to learn yet another system is understandable.

We’re all overwhelmed with the amount of communication we receive that any additional communication platform now just feels like ‘another thing’. So let’s dive into some of those anxieties and how LoopingBack might alleviate them.

More Time in Meetings and Messages = Increased Frustration

If you think you’ve had to endure more meetings now than before the pandemic, you’d be correct. The number of meetings an average employee attends has risen by over 13 percent, and the number of Slack messages and emails has increased by a whopping 20 percent. So we’re now in meetings more often (about 21.5 hours per week), and when we finally escape, we have more messages tosort through, which eat up an additional 11 hours per week on average. No wonder we’re all exhausted and overwhelmed.

And of course we’ve all had the thrilling experience of ‘enjoying’ a Zoom meeting while watching simultaneous Slack and email notifications flash over our screens, hinting at drama and stresses that await us once we’re ‘free’.

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The Invasive Nature of Our Messages and Email

Filtering through and then answering our messages and email shouldn’t be difficult, but most of us find it to be quite draining. 

One of the big reasons email is stressful is rooted in our biology. Humans are social beings. Our brains are wired to seek out social belonging and we experience very real pain when we do not get it. Remember the early days of the Covid-19 Pandemic, how not having social contact with our friends and family was painful. Furthermore, our ability to just mentally overcome this pain, even when we know that we’re not harming our social connections is very restricted. Cal Newport in his New Yorker article “E-mail Is Making Us Miserable” sums this up nicely:

When you skip a meal, telling your rumbling stomach that food is coming later in the day, and therefore that it has no reason to fear starvation, doesn’t alleviate the powerful sensation of hunger. Similarly, explaining to your brain that the neglected interactions reflected by your overfilled in-box have little to do with the health of your relationships doesn’t seem to prevent a corresponding sense of background anxiety.

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It’s hard to feel connected when our communication is through messages and email for at least two reasons:

  1. The invasive nature of the platforms themselves
  2. The expectation of an immediate reply

Chances are, your email and messages can be found on both your computer and personal phone. That means that no matter the time, no matter the place, your day can be interrupted by work communications. And with the almost complete dissolution of a sane work/life balance, you’re probably checking those platforms even if you’ve wisely turned off notifications.

And chances are also pretty great that when you see someone’s reached out to you, you feel compelled to respond as quickly as possible. And besides, if it’ll just take a minute or two to respond to a message or email, then it’s not that big a burden, right? But those minutes can quickly add up, and then hours slip by before you’ve looked up from your device.

Mailbox > Inbox

Let’s compare our email inbox to our mailbox out on the street. Our physical mailboxes don’t follow us around the house, beeping or flashing with each new letter or bill. And whenever we want to check it, we at least get a little walk and some fresh air in our day.

Let’s talk about how the mail is delivered. I’ve rarely felt stressed about my mailbox on the street. It’s a little funny given that some of the most stressful messages we’ll ever receive arrive in that box (e.g. bills, letters from the IRS). Many of us probably have an easy and mindless ritual with our physical mail: the walk there, the return trip, filtering whatever arrived that day, and then finally the very end when we throw the junk into the recycling. Tossing something into the trash feels so much more satisfying than just pressing ‘mark as spam’.

We can see at least three reasons why we find our mailbox so much less stressful than our inbox.

  1. It’s predictable. It’s delivered at the same time each day.
  2. It arrives in an efficient stack that’s easy to filter and sort through.
  3. The sender isn’t expecting an immediate response.

Now of course, most of us aren’t receiving work communications through our physical mail, but there must be ways to improve our digital inboxes and make it a bit more like our analog correspondence experience.

@elysemyers

surely we weren’t meant to be this get-ahold-able all the time. #saturnchat #theadhdway

♬ original sound - Elyse Myers

 

How to Make Work Communications Less Stressful

Most experts recommend setting up your email and slack platforms to operate more like your physical mailbox through filters, rules, and other complex settings. They also recommend only reading your email at certain, predictable times of the day. But how many of us go through the trouble of perfecting our email settings, and then how many of us can actually resist the urge to check our inboxes, knowing the messages are just piling up?

Plus, when we know so many others are constantly checking their messages and emails, we feel compelled to do the same, so we give in and try to provide that immediate response. No matter what, it’s an exhausting and unreasonable expectation.

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LoopingBack Can Free Us From Constant Communication

This is why we built LoopingBack. It’s not about adding ‘another thing’, but instead creating a separate place for slower and more thoughtful communication. If we remove strategic communication from email, Slack, and Teams then we’re freed up to focus on that strategic, deep work more effectively. By organizing our communication channels better, we’re lowering the stress on our teams, engaging productively, and building a more inclusive environment. We better separate the time of working IN the business from working ON the business.

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When using LoopingBack, we recommend building a culture and setting expectations where it’s the quality of the response that’s important, not the speed. It’s important to communicate this in your initial loops and document those expectations in your handbook. It’s also important that when you create a loop, be sure to set a long enough time for responses that doesn’t unnecessarily induce pressure; ultimately, you should ask yourself how long you’re comfortable waiting until you review the responses.

So, is LoopingBack just another thing? 

Well, yeah. We are a fundamentally different communication platform than Slack, Teams, or email, and we are advocating for a different kind of communication paradigm. We’re advocating for making your day simpler and setting aside some time to focus on the humans that make everything possible. We’re advocating for taking a few breaths, being a little slower, but also being more human.

Next time you walk to your mailbox, take a deep breath, enjoy that time, and be thankful for how asynchronous communication can free us from the burden of invasive platforms and immediate responses.

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