We’re all too familiar with this scenario: you’re either about to start a project or you’re right in the middle of one – and then PING! – Claire wants a quick update on a recent client call. So, you stop what you’re doing to give her a full rundown, which takes almost as much time as the call itself. By the time you get back to your project, you’ve lost focus and take another 10 minutes to remind your brain where you left off.
Internal instant messaging, like Slack, is one of the best additions to the workplace since the invention of the water cooler. You can keep chatting and catching up with your coworkers without ever having to take off your headphones. The downside, of course, is that constant group chat and direct messages can feel like the quicksand of communications.
As more people are working remotely, it’s important to remember office etiquette – even if it is a digital office. Here are some best practices when using Slack:
Set up your profile – First things first, you must set up your personal profile. Let people see who you are and what you do at the company. When you are adding a picture, this is a great time to show off a little personality (while keeping it work appropriate of course). Next, this might seem self-explanatory, but you will want to add your job title and best ways to contact you. Slack also functions like a workplace directory – so including important details of your role in organization can help others contact you.
Take a break (and let your team know) – As mentioned above, it is very easy to lose track of time, get caught up in chats, and stay sitting for hours on end. Take a step away from the screen and walk around a little! But before you do that, make sure to update your status if you will be away from your computer for 30 minutes or longer. Even if you’re not leaving your computer, but just need a solid hour of focus time, let people know you won’t be responding immediately. Being clear about your whereabouts sets up healthy boundaries and is considerate to your teammates.
Before asking someone a question, ask yourself if you can google first – Another point that might seem self-explanatory, but while we’re on the topic of being considerate of your team, it’s important to remain respectful of everyone’s time and not ask questions in which you can easily look up the answer.
Determine if the message would be better in an email – While Slack certainly reduces the amount of internal emails, it should ultimately be a place for collaboration, the occasional funny gif, and rapid communication. When you want to make sure that your team understands the importance of something, remembers critical information for later, or follows specific instructions, it’s best to send via email.
Make a call before things get lost in translation – One of the downsides of communicating solely through text is the loss of tone, and sometimes, the intention of the message. If it is becoming increasingly difficult either to understand or to convey your point, don’t shy away from calling the person instead. Pick up the phone for sensitive issues, complicated projects, and/or to clarify any details or instructions.
Remember to keep it fun – The reason people love apps like Slack is because it’s easy to have fun with your team while still being able to work. Part of keeping it fun also means keeping office gossip to a minimum in the direct messages. No one wants underlying toxic chatter when we’re all trying to have a good time and do good work. So, share a favorite story, send hilarious GIFs, and encourage others to do the same.