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Abhinav Saxena

a body of clay, a mind full of play, a moment's life - that is me

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Slack has become an important tool to make the workplace more collaborative. In these COVID-19 times, the importance of Slack has increased further. However, it has also become the primary reason for stress, fatigsue and degraded productivity. Here are some of the Slack etiquettes to keep in mind

Email

  • Slack is not email - if you are using Slack as a replacement for email, then there's something wrong. (example. weekly status reports, product specs, engineering design etc. ideally should be over wiki/email)
  • Slack isn't meant for deep discussions that last for days/weeks. Use email instead.
  • Slack is meant for ephemeral communication. Avoid taking decisions on Slack, and if you do - send an email or note them down in appropriate documents. Slack messages get lost very easily.

Channels

  • Default to public channels. Create a private channel if you want it to be accessible only to a few folks
  • If you are creating a channel, follow your org's convention of naming channels (including underscore vs hyphen in the channel name)
  • If you are part of a private channel, don't add more folks without asking the person who created or is running the channel.
  • Archive channels that are no longer needed.
  • Every channel must have a specific reason for existence. This might be different from the stated purpose on Slack. If a lot of channels have similar set of members, and they talk about the similar things in all the channels - merge them (by archiving other channels)

Direct Messages (DM)

  • DMs create silos and information asymmetry. I am a big fan of Stripe's email transparency culture, and hence I insist on minimising DMs as much as possible.
  • If more than 2 people have messaged you asking the same thing, you should consider putting your answer in a channel or a document.
  • Slack allows you to DM upto 7 people at once, however I recommend at max 3 people DMs (including you), if you want to talk to more at once - use an existing channel, create a new channel (avoid it as much as possible though) or take this conversation over email. Adding more folks and giving them context about the discussion is much easier that way.
  • In the WFH world like today, I would recommend not sending a DM after work hours. DMs create notifications. Send an email instead. This way the receiver can process the message at his own time.
  • If you choose to DM, put the whole question in first message itself - it's stupid to message hi/hey and wait for other person to respond. By writing down the whole message, you also let the receiver decide the priority of the message.

@Channel

  • Use @channel if you really want everyone to take a note right away. Usually these situations are only emergency situations.
  • Think twice before using @channel in a channel of more than 10 people during off hours. Consider using @here.
  • Most of the @channel messages sent during off hours can be sent in normal working hours. Consider doing that. This helps ensure that importance of @channel message is retained, and they get enough attention from everyone
  • If your channel is a support channel (ex. IT-support), consider creating a user-group (ex. @it-support) as well - this will ensure anyone needing urgent help doesn't have to @channel and disturb everyone who is in the channel to seek help.

Conversations

  • Don't be a grammar nazi
  • Use DPs and add your title - there are enough bots already on Slack, you don't need to be one.
  • Acknowledge messages. You can use emojis or reactions, but do acknowledge the message.
  • Many times, if you are writing a really long message, it's a signal that this message probably should be sent over email. In case, you still want to go ahead, make it easy to scan by adding line breaks, bullets, and text styling.
  • Utilise threads, especially for happy birthday/congratulations messages. Avoid using a separate message as much as you can.

Availability

  • One of least used features of Slack is Status - use it effectively to communicate if you are away from work.
  • Pause notifications/use DND in case you are in a meeting, or working on something important. Notifications should not distract you from the work at hand.