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Slack Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts for Remote Collaboration

Slack Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts for Remote Collaboration

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What are the unspoken rules of using Slack within teams?

Getting work done and building a positive company culture while keeping things fun: that’s Slack in a nutshell. In the age of remote work, it has quickly become the go-to tool for company communication and collaboration.

However, Slack’s growing popularity has also given rise to questions around the rules and etiquette surrounding its usage. Slack is a great medium to stay connected in an age when work has become increasingly isolating and can also provide a fantastic substitute for things like coffee breaks which made our workday more fun.

However, technology that never shuts off can sometimes prove to be counterproductive. Disorganized communication, often without context, can also lead to misunderstandings and frustration among team members.

Who says workplace etiquette must go out the window just because we’re not in a physical workspace? This is why a conversation on Slack etiquette matters. It can do wonders for your team’s productivity and reduce workplace friction.

Let’s break down five tips that will help you use Slack more intentionally and mindfully. 

1. Encourage the use of the DND feature

Unlike email, messaging apps like Slack are used more liberally by everyone. As WFH blurs the line between personal and professional, it is all the more difficult to shut down work-related communication when the day ends.

The Do Not Disturb, or the D-N-D feature on Slack is a great way to ensure a healthier work-life balance. Use it to mark your leaves and avoid untimely interruptions that may disrupt your workflow. If you’re a team leader, make sure everyone is comfortable using that feature and does not feel obligated to respond to messages outside of work hours.

The feature may also be used to limit interaction during working hours and carve out time for focused tasks. Feel free to change your Slack status to D-N-D to let colleagues know you’re busy and will not be available to respond right away. 

2. Fewer messages, clearer thoughts

It is important to distinguish Slack from an informal social media app like WhatsApp. It is even more important to stop using it like one. Just as you wouldn’t send multiple emails to communicate one cohesive thought or idea, avoid sending multiple short Slack messages. Doing so overwhelms the channel and may hinder people from being able to follow the line of thought.  In turn, this may limit the responses you receive.

Instead, try constructing your thought or idea in the most succinct yet clearest way possible in one long message before sharing. Be mindful of your colleagues’ time and avoid distracting them with unnecessary notifications. 

3. Organize communication topics into Slack channels

It is critical to organize work communication into channels to keep things organized and neat. Ensure each project or topic (including non-work-related topics) has its own channel and only the relevant folks are added to it. This ensures that no one wastes time reading messages that have nothing to do with them.

Below are some examples:

  • #random: The name says it all. This channel may be used to discuss everything (within reason!) under the sun. Send GIFs. Share memes. Have a laugh. This is the channel for it. 
  • #marketing: A place strictly for your creative and communications folks to discuss shop. This is where you discuss the next social media campaign, and this is the channel a developer doesn’t need to be on. 
  • #netflixandchill: Discuss your latest binge-watch, true crime documentaries or real-grit mini-series and bond over common interests. 

Pin the purpose and rules of these channels on top and get chatting. This is organized, fun, and allows you to compartmentalize conversations and engage in them meaningfully.

Organizing your communication into channels can help cut down the clutter in your Slack. Image credit: Unsplash/Pankaj Patel


4. Use threads

Organizing your channels on Slack is the first step towards a structured virtual workspace. Using threaded replies within each channel is the crucial second step. When answering a particular question or responding to a particular thought, offer a threaded reply. This ensures that only those who are needed to participate in that thread do so. It also means fewer notifications for those not part of the threaded chat. 

This way, all the information about one topic will be organized neatly into a thread, to be referred to whenever needed, all in one place. This also ensures the channel isn’t bombarded with messages. 

5. Before you add someone to a new channel, ask

Before we get into this, it’s important to note that this does not apply to work-related channels where one’s presence is mandatory. This rule applies to all non-work-related channels.

Slack encourages team bonding through fun and play. However, being part of multiple game channels or common-interest channels might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Different people work differently and it is important to be mindful of their preferences. For instance, someone who is working hard to reduce their Netflix time might be tempted to check out the latest sci-fi series by hearing teammates rave about it. This will, in turn, hamper their work productivity.

Therefore, always ask. 

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