This is what everyone in your office is really talking about on Slack. Hint: Not work

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Anyone who’s ever heard the bouncy “tk-tk-tk” of a Slack notification knows that the sound signals something that’s going to pull them out of what they’re currently working on and into a potential rabbit hole of someone else’s needs. Workplace chat tools like Slack, Google Hangouts, and Skype were designed to make inter-office communication easier, to replace email, and to ease collaboration. But they’ve also turned into a hub for idle banter, gossip, and flirting. Trying to work between the ping of notifications is feeling increasingly like trying to walk between the raindrops.

Nulab surveyed over 900 full-time employees who use at least one work chat communication platform at their job to see if the tools are improving communication and collaboration or hindering productivity.

Big talkers

The survey found that employees spend, on average, 40 minutes a day chatting online amongst themselves about non-work topics.

And 25% of employees spend more than an hour daily engaged in non-work related chat. Still, a well-behaved 44% found themselves distracted only 29 minutes per day or less.

The most popular non-work chat subject? Lunch, by 57%.

Other popular topics on office work chat

  • Lunch: 57%
  • Outside work activities: 52%
  • Movies and TV: 34%
  • Hobbies: 32%
  • Sports: 32%
  • Gossip: 32%
  • Pets: 22%
  • Alcohol: 12%

Shooting themselves in the foot: Employees who believed that workplace chat technology was likely to decrease productivity were also the same employees who spent more time in non-work related chat conversations (50%).

Major distractions: In-person conversations, ironically, received top ranking as the sources of distraction at work (47%), followed by phone calls (20%), and chat platforms (15%).

You can take it with you: A majority (66%) had their work chat platform’s app installed on their phones, and reported being distracted for an extra 16 minutes a day by non-work related conversations. Coulda seen that one coming!

More or less productive?

The vote is split on the productivity of workplace chat programs.

A full 40% of employees responded that workplace chat made them more productive, followed by 29% finding that they made them less productive. And nearly a third (31%) were neutral.

Delete now? A third of employees (34%) said they would get more work done if the uninstalled their work chat program.

However, the younger generation is more gung-ho about chatting at work: Millennials were the most likely to believe that work chat platforms increased their productivity (42%).

And as for the gossip factor – well, yes, they’re probably talking about you. The vast majority (84%) believed that work chat increased office gossip, and 20% thought in spiked office gossip by “a great deal.”

The lesson? Between open office setups and seamless work chat, there are no more secrets in the modern workplace. For privacy, try the water cooler.