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Maximize Slack for Stronger Communication, Collaboration, & Team Culture

Slack is an amazing communication tool that has reduced our team’s email usage 100 times over, made task integration with PM tools faster, and even contributed to shaping our team’s culture. It’s true! But most of that has happened by using the more subtle features many people may not think to use.

Here are a few game-changers we’ve discovered.

Status: Communicate without saying a word

I’m sure you’ve experienced this: you Slack a team member a question, continue on with your work, and realize hours or days later that you never heard back! Then you are frustrated, wonder what happened, and have to virtually tap them on the shoulder “Ahem… ^^ Any updates?

Your team can avoid this frustration easily! Just post your status.

Screenshots of various Slack statuses
Slack status examples

Using either default choices or ones I make up, I can communicate my availability and expected response time to the team. I can indicate that I’m in a meeting, traveling, or even running a few quick errands with an emoji and a few words. By using these, I’m not only establishing and communicating my boundaries, but I’m managing the team’s expectations on when they can expect a reply.

Remind me: Triage those unexpected requests

You know the feeling… you’re in a zone, working on a specific task, and you see a Slack pop up that you need to answer. Some replies can take you mere seconds and not break your concentration, but others are going to require shifting mental gears.

If you don’t want to break concentration, quickly let the person know by when you’ll answer, then set the Slack reminder! At the designated time, the Slackbot will nudge you to do that thing. Meanwhile, you can get back into your zone without missing a beat.

Random channels: Build a virtual water cooler

Slack can also help you build your team culture. One of my favorite channels to create is “random,” where people can post freely about anything non-work-related at all.

A colleague was once working in a coffee shop when she realized she was sitting right next to a famous country music artist. She posted this news in #random, and within minutes, the equivalent of distributed team “water cooler” conversation ensued; it allowed the team members to have a shared experience although we were thousands of miles apart.

Things like that remind you and the team of where the other members are geographically, what their context is, and it can also spur on a fun side-conversation, which builds rapport over time.

At Way Forth, we also have a food channel where people who are a smidge obsessed with making (and eating!) good food swap recipes, share ideas, and add a few culinary tips to their repertoires. I’ve also seen channels for puzzles, books, music… you name it! Find a common area of interest among team members and create a channel to allow for people to be themselves and get that connection moment at home.

3 Setup Tips for New Users

By the way, if you’re new to Slack, I recommend three things that will set you up for success (or at least help you to not hate it in a matter of days!):

  1. Use the desktop app. Download and use the desktop app for your laptop or device (don’t use it via your browser).

  2. Reduce interruptions. Change your notifications to only receive alerts when you are tagged or DMed. (You can also pause these notifications or turn them off, but changing this core setting will alleviate a lot of unnecessary “knocking.”)

  3. Organize your channels. Set up sections that allow you to group similar channels (and/or DMs) together, so you don’t have to dig too far to find the channel you want to post in.

Just like all tools, Slack is most useful when you know how to get the most out of it. And with so many people in remote settings, the more we can communicate in ways that aren’t email and Zoom, the more efficient, productive, and… well… happier we’ll all be!

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