Slack vs. Email: When Should Small Businesses Use Them?

Posted on January 30, 2024 | Updated on June 11, 2024

Email is one of the oldest forms of digital communication. Businesses have used them for years to stay in touch with teams, provide company updates and more. However, email can turn into a waste of time. When receiving hundreds of emails each day, a flooded inbox can be overwhelming to manage. As you sift through them, you could be doing more important things during business hours. 

Then Slack came into the picture. Suddenly, teams could get instant messages from coworkers, never missing a beat. However, there are some pros and cons to Slack vs. email. Therefore, it’s essential to consider them and when it’s the most appropriate time to use each. 

Advantages of Slack

Real-Time Communication

Slack has benefitted team communication by offering real-time chatting. No longer do teams have to wait hours or days for a response. With Slack, conversations flow seamlessly, and you can gain immediate feedback, allowing you to make decisions more quickly. With this instant communication, teams can collaborate faster and get more work done in less time.

Organized Conversations

One thing Slack does to make communication easier is keeping your discussions in order through channels. Instead of sifting through a cluttered inbox, team members can join topic-specific channels. This allows them to streamline communication and ensure the conversations remain relevant. In turn, this organized approach keeps distractions at bay and boosts productivity. 

Integration With Third-Party Apps

Another feature that small businesses love about Slack is its integration abilities. Teams can connect various third-party apps directly to their Slack workspace. Therefore, if you use multiple other tools simultaneously, you have everything in one place with this instant messaging app. Whether you need to update your calendar or upload new documents, these integrations reduce toggling between applications and save time.

Limitations of Slack

Slack has some downfalls for small businesses to be aware of.

Information Overload

While Slack is great for streamlining communication, it can also lead to an overwhelming amount of received messages. When discussions are ongoing, keeping track of every update that comes through can be challenging. This can be even more discerning, especially when team members are chatting casually. This amount of information requires users to frequently catch up, potentially causing them to miss vital details with all the chatter.

Free Version Comes With Limitations

Slack’s free tier may be appealing. However, it comes with certain constraints. For instance, the message history caps at 90 days, while certain features are locked behind a paywall. As a small-business owner, these restrictions keep your team from collaborating. Therefore, you may need to invest in the upgrade much sooner than later.

Notifications Can Become Distracting

Instant notifications are great for when you’re in a time crunch, and you need to know when you get a response. However, this convenience can turn into a source of distraction quickly. Receiving continuous pings for every message diverts your attention from the most important tasks. Some customization options exist, but balancing staying informed and minimizing distractions can be challenging for some users. 

Benefits of Email

Now that you’re familiar with the pros and cons of Slack, take a moment to learn about the benefits. 

Users Are Universally Familiar

Email has been a staple in business communication for decades. With that in mind, practically everyone knows how to use it regardless of their tech knowledge. This familiarity reduces onboarding times and ensures communication is accessible for everyone. 

Allows for More Formal and Detailed Communication

Instant messaging is great for quick exchanges. However, email stands out when detailed, structured communication is necessary. The format of email allows for more comprehensive discussions. Therefore, you’re able to share lengthy documents and formal correspondences. As a result, you ensure complex ideas are conveyed clearly and professionally. 

Easy to Archive and Search for Past Conversations

One of email’s ultimate strengths is its ability to store and catalog conversations. With a search function and folder organization, users can effortlessly locate past discussions and attachments. These features ensure all your information is organized and clean, allowing you to reference back to them whenever needed. 

Drawbacks of Email

Email may have multiple benefits, but it has certain drawbacks to remember. 

Lack of Real-Time Communication

Email doesn’t always have guaranteed immediate responses. Oftentimes, there’s a delay as recipients check their inboxes occasionally. In fact, research shows three to four hours is the average response time for email during work hours. This long of a wait leads to hold-ups in decision-making, causing bottlenecks in your operation. 

Cluttered Inbox and Spam

Email also leads to an overwhelming influx of messages. Sifting through promotional mails, updates and spam can be time-consuming. Plus, you can easily lose important conversations amidst the clutter, slowing productivity. 

Difficulty Collaboration

Email wasn’t designed for collaborative tasks. While you can loop in multiple team members, the lack of features like real-time edits or integrated app functionalities means working together can be challenging. Continuous back-and-forth emails can lead to confusion, making managing team projects harder. 

Tips for When to Use Slack vs. Email

When deciding to use Slack vs. email, here are three things to keep in mind.

1. The Nature of Communication

When using Slack vs. email, turn to Slack when the conversation requires instant feedback. It’s perfect for quick clarifications, short-term check-ins and urgent announcements. Slack’s real-time nature ensures timely responses, making it apt for fast-paced environments. On the other hand, email is more suitable for detailed discussions and formal proposals. If you need to send more thoughtful, longer messages, email makes a more appropriate choice. 

2. Audience Size and Familiarity

Slack channels are ideal for group discussions or company-wide announcements, ensuring everyone stays in the loop. Yet remember, not everyone may be on the platform, especially external partners and clients. Therefore, it’s best to stick with this form of communication for internal messaging. 

With email being universally accessible, it’s often the better choice for broader outreach or when communicating with someone outside your immediate team. Plus, email gives you a clearer sense of the communication chain, and there’s less risk of unintentionally excluding someone from the conversation.

3. Purpose of Record-Keeping

If the communication needs a solid record or documentation, email is the way to go. It’s easier to save, categorize and search through, especially when you need to trace back specific details or decisions. While Slack offers search functionalities, it may not retain all messages indefinitely, especially on the free version. Therefore, email is advisable for long-term communication and thorough documentation. 

Slack vs. Email: Making Communication Work for Your Small Business

Optimal communication is essential for thriving businesses. While Slack and email have their strengths, they also have limitations. By understanding their challenges, small businesses can create a communication strategy that ensures efficiency and clarity. Whether it’s the immediacy of Slack or the formality of email, using the right tool at the right time can drive productivity and teamwork. 

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