Slack is one of the most influential and preferred platforms for communication and collaboration among distributed teams. Pitted against some of the biggest tech companies in the world, Slack has positioned itself as a tool that can ensure seamless communication within the team.
Slack was pitched as ‘the email killer’ in its early days, and the pandemic further pushed its usage among companies of all sizes. While it has not been able to completely replace email, it has established clear space for itself in the industry.
Slack is best known for reducing the load of emails in the inbox and ensuring structured communication within the team. It is beneficial if your team is distributed across locations and needs to collaborate regularly on projects and activities. However, it can quickly become a productivity killer if not used effectively.
Even as a hybrid work environment matures in various organizations, more employees would likely use Slack to manage communication in distributed teams.
In such a scenario, it is crucial to take note of Slack best practices that can help you make the most of this fantastic tool.
Dos of Slack Etiquette
1. Build threads
It is a Slack etiquette guideline that you should create threads in chats.
Threads are great for keeping your team on track, allowing you to focus on one topic at a time so that nothing gets lost in the shuffle, and keeping everyone’s attention focused on what’s important.
In addition, threads allow you to keep your chat organized and help you get a sense of context when reading through them later on.
2. Be mindful of time zones.
As a Slack etiquette guideline, it’s important to keep in mind the time zones of your team when scheduling events and tasks.
You don’t want to schedule an event during prime working hours for one person on your team if it’s going to be super late at night for someone else. And you also don’t want to set up a recurring event that occurs at the end of everyone’s day so that they have to stay late just to make sure they don’t miss the meeting.
To avoid this, you can add the time zone information to your profile. This will help your colleagues see the time zone you are living in and contact you accordingly.
3. Build communication topics into channels
Each organization has some set channels and topics on which most of the communication occurs. It can be marketing, sales, automation, administration, or generic issues. It is better to create communication topics into channels and add relevant people to respective channels, so an employee only receives information that is useful to them. This helps segregate conversations into topics and keeps each team member aware of the progress in the channels pertinent to their work. It is better than a single channel to discuss multiple issues, where the team loses track of the progress made across topics.
4. Add appropriate channel names and descriptions
It is helpful to add appropriate channel names and descriptions so that the team members continue to have a strong hold over why a particular channel was created. The description can be used for various purposes based on the end objective of the organisation. A good way would be to mention the rules that apply to a particular channel. By giving proper channel names and descriptions, you can handle any confusion that may arise because of a lack of information.
5. Pin important messages
Even after you have added a description and named the channel appropriately as Slack best practices, it is helpful to pin particular messages in the channel. As the team members may move in and out of the organisation, keep the key messages pinned at the top to give new members complete clarity. At the same time, these pinned messages help a lot in keeping the existing team members aware of the communication that has taken place in the channel. This is especially valid for distributed teams spread across various parts of the world.
6. Use the @ sign appropriately.
Using the @ sign can attract the attention of specific individuals towards a message but it is important that it is used appropriately. There are four ways in which you can use the @ sign in Slack:
– @channel to notify every user on the channel and this should be used sparingly
– @mention to notify a specific individual within the channel about the message; possibly because they need to handle it.
– @everyone notifies every person in the #general channel.
– @here notifies only the active members of a channel.
If the @ sign is used very frequently and without much thought about the right usage, even the relevant messages lose their value. To ensure that this does not happen in your organisation, do give a thought to which message should have a @channel, @here, @mention, and @everyone sign. Furthermore, you should check if the message requires the symbol at all. This is more important for distributed teams, where most communication takes place on Slack.
- Encourage the use of the DND Feature
One of the best features of Slack is one of the most underused in many organisations. It is the DND feature. One of the many Slack best practices is to use the DND feature when you are not available. It could be a vacation, a family emergency, or a health issue, or you could just not be reachable for a while. By putting the DND option on time, you would be able to communicate your status to other team members, and they would take that into account before deciding to press that send button. Also, Slack gives an option to override this and notify you immediately if it is something urgent.
- Write to be understood
It is better to write direct messages that are able to explain the context, the issue at hand, and the possible solutions. As Slack is used for asynchronous communication in distributed teams, it is better to use bullet points, emojis, and numbers for effective communication. As messages may be read in different time zones, any confusion in delivering your point can lead to confusion and end up wasting your personal time or your colleague’s in clarifying the position.
- Do communicate how your business uses Slack
It is important to set the right expectations for employees on how you use Slack in your organization. For instance, an employee may feel lost seeing GIFs and emojis being shared on Slack if they are coming from an organization that uses Slack in a more formal way. As a result, it is important to communicate with your employees about how you expect them to use Slack. This will especially help the new members joining your team.
- Use emojis to respond to Slack messages
Emojis can be a great way to respond to messages on Slack. You can use 🙏 instead of thanks and 👍 for showing that you have seen the message. By using one-click emoji reactions, you are able to use Slack more conveniently. At the same time, it reduces the unnecessary Slacks and notifications.
Don’ts of Slack Etiquette
Learning about Slack best practices is not enough. You should steer clear of these mistakes; the list of seven don’ts of Slack etiquette is as follows:
1. Send complete messages
Another bad slack etiquette is to overuse the Slack direct message without much thought. Every Slack direct message leaves a notification on the mobile and desktop of the user. In such a scenario, using multiple direct messages to leave customary messages such as hi, good morning, or goodbye can be distracting for the productivity of any user. A good practice here is to include your key message in a single message and keep it easy to scan. The customary messages may be good etiquette when you meet each other, but not over Slack. Another good practice is to not overuse direct messages.
2. Send unformatted messages
Slack is good in what it is known for—internal communication. But to communicate effectively, it is important that team members are able to go through the messages in the least amount of time. To achieve that, team members should not send unformatted messages. It is a good practice to use bullet points, numbers, and emojis to send properly formatted messages. This makes it easy to read and respond to individuals. By sending unformatted messages or sending large chunks of text, the team will end up wasting time from the working schedule understanding the messages being sent.
3. Add people randomly to channels
Another bad Slack etiquette that you should avoid is adding people randomly to channels. This is especially damaging for distributed teams. Without any background and notice, your act of adding a few team members to a Slack channel will not only confuse them but will also not give them any clarity on what is expected from them. Have they been added because of a particular project that is coming up or to stay in touch with ongoing activity? These questions must be answered before people are added to channels.
4. Send regular messages after work hours
When handling distributed teams across various locations, you should avoid sending regular messages after work hours. The main words here are ‘work hours’, i.e., the work hours of the employees you are contacting on Slack. With distributed teams, you should be mindful of the fact that various people are working in different locations across various time zones. As a result, your distributed team must not have regular work messages after work hours.
This would be good Slack etiquette to maintain a high-performing team with a strong work-life balance. You can use the schedule send option to schedule the messages at the right time as per their time zone.
5. Expect an instant response
Slack is one of the best tools for internal communication. However, you should remember that and not expect an instant response every time. Slack helps you collaborate better, but in a distributed team, each member may have a set of responsibilities, and the constant Slack messages can act as a distraction. On top of that, constant reminders and follow-up messages can prove to be a deterrent to productivity and collaboration. Good Slack etiquette would be to give enough space and time to your team members to come back to you.
6. Ignore availability status
Another practice that you should avoid is to ignore the availability status of your distributed team members. If the team members are using status messages to convey their current state, it is advisable to follow that and communicate with them accordingly. A colleague could be on vacation, in a meeting, out sick, or could have updated a custom status. It is a good practice to check the colleague’s status before pressing the send button. This is especially critical for a distributed team where Slack is the primary channel of communication, and you may not be aware of their current status.
7. Use channels for direct messages
Another no-no in Slack best practices is to use channels for direct messages. There is an option to create a channel for a particular topic, and it should be used in the same way. It is a bad idea to send direct messages to people on a channel. As your message would be read by all members in the channel for whom the message may not be relevant. On the other hand, it is also a bad idea to send a direct message to people for any information that is better sent as a single message on the channel. This way, you will not have to send the same message to several people.
To sum up
These are some of the dos and don’ts of Slack etiquette that can help you utilize this powerful tool for seamless communication within your distributed team. You can also develop a Slack etiquette guide for your distributed team that can set the foundation for all communication that happens on Slack in your team. Also, it can act as a foundation for all the new team members that join you with time and helps in setting the right context for effectively using Slack.
This Slack etiquette guide can detail what to do and what not to do on Slack when communicating with colleagues and detail other best practices such as updating your status, updating a profile picture, contact window, etc.
The set of dos and don’ts mentioned can help you structure your communication strategy on Slack. The main factor in the strategy should be to use it as a tool for effective internal collaboration and communication. In other words, Slack should be used for what it is and not for what it is not.