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The real-time work chat app has improved productivity for some and allowed others to cut down on email. But at what cost?

Real-time work chat app Slack has been hailed as both an “email killer” and a “life ruiner”. That’s because the app’s constant notifications enable an always-on work culture that is, frankly, exhausting. Even Slack itself knows how difficult it is to disconnect: the HQ encourages its own employees to log off after leaving the office. But anyone who belongs to a Slack channel knows that stepping back is easier said than done.

Despite a growing backlash as Slack shunts companies away from email and towards messaging, the US-based company got a boost on 20 June with its first direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock price closed at $38.62 (about £31) on its first day, leaving the company valued at around $20bn (£16bn).

And the service is increasingly being used to connect members beyond the same team or company. It’s landing people jobs through professional groups and helping them plan weddings by organising communications (chatting with your fiancé in #honeymoon is more fun than #seating-arrangement). So the future of Slack may be Slackers using the tech in non-traditional ways, or Slack competitors arising to fix the things that make Slack irritating, like gathering offline messages in one place and colour-coding messages in a thread to make them easier to follow. That might make the experience more :grinning: and less :weary:.

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Image credit: Piero Zagami and Michela Nicchiotti.