4 min read

9 tips and tricks to using Slack for remote teams

Thomas Boudier
12 April 2021 Slack
Workflow Steps for Jira Slack funnel illustration

Slack has been instrumental in enabling people to work remotely, foster a sense of belonging with distributed teams, and keeping productivity high. You and your coworkers have screen fatigue, a year in, and showing a Pavlovian response to Slack’s notification sounds, with an attention span of 9 milliseconds.

Instead of complaining, which we do because we’re human, why not act like the colibri that brought water drops one by one, and inspired a whole legion to fight the fire? Here are 9 pointers on how to make everybody’s work experience a bit more pleasant and look good in front of your coworkers.

1. Chatter is sweeter with emojis 😊

Emojis can go a long way to indicate the tone of a message but of course, use these sparingly as people can easily misunderstand you for not being serious. Emoji reactions help foster a sense of community and are great at showing enthusiasm and positivity, especially with everyone working remotely. It’s easy to add custom emojis to your Slack, such as logos of your company, your products, and of the tools you use most often. You can even customise quick reactions.

2. Over-communicate

In today’s remote world, the lack of body language has been replaced by over-exaggerated facial expressions over video calls. We can’t see our coworkers hanging out by the coffee machine or the water cooler (or the doughnut box). We can’t have impromptu hallway banter, nor hear others laughing out loud from the other side of the office anymore.

This makes it all the more important to over-communicate and compensates for the lack of visual cues. Keep in contact regularly, stay connected, keep some team spirit alive and make a conscious effort to keep each other informed. I’ve found turning on the webcam to be useful to set expectations for yourself; to get dressed (not stay in pyjamas) and be ready to go for the morning.

3. Pause notifications for focus time

The call of the wild of the garden (and the fridge) are probably enough of a distraction when working from home; the last thing you want is the ding ding of your notifications all day too. You need to be able to focus every once in a while. 

Don’t hesitate to pause notifications with Do Not Disturb to set boundaries for yourself. You could even set a schedule to know you’ll never get disturbed between 12 pm and 3 pm, for example, this way you know you can get things done with focus time every day in the afternoon.

4. Take breaks

You also need time away from the screen, to stretch your back and your legs, and to get some vitamin D with well-deserved sun rays. Don’t feel guilty to book some time off for breaks in your calendar, in fact, this will ensure you can rest your eyes from the blue light as well. It is important to let others know you’re not around though, so make the most of Slack’s status features to let everyone know you’re away, and have some time for yourself, several times a day.

time for a stretch gif

5. Acknowledge messages and requests

Has this happened to you? You message someone to ask them a question, and they don’t reply straight away, not 10 minutes later, not 1 hour later, nor by lunchtime, nor the next day… nor ever? Now take a moment to self reflect, have you never done this to others? Let’s not cast the first stone onto anyone, but also, let’s avoid doing it again. Ever.

Try to make sure you acknowledge getting a message before the end of the day. Sometimes even a simple emoji 👀  reaction can do the job. For what it’s worth, it’s nowhere near as awkward having to give someone a nudge to follow-up to an acknowledgement, rather than to no-response at all.

6. Keep communication positive and encouraging

Considering the fact that more and more people work across international time zones, and therefore have different tastes in humour and cultural upbringing. A good rule of thumb is, if you’re not sure whether anyone’s going to feel insulted by your joke, then it’s better to abstain. This is especially so over messages as it’s highly likely the tone you read a message in your head, isn’t how the sender intended it to be. Be a positive force and an optimistic and empowering presence within your team.

7. Praise publicly and criticise privately

Give kudos, send flowers, be vocal, congratulate and compliment. We’re one year into the pandemic, people are responding differently but we’re all isolated and feeling a bit drained. It’s nice to be kind and uplifting, and every little does make a difference. Share your praise and appreciation publicly, so others can get sparkles of joy, it may even make their day.

Unfortunately, sometimes you’ll also need to criticise people, so be it, constructively. It’s important to hold ourselves and others to a standard. When this happens, stay behind closed doors and have an open conversation with the person involved.

8. Name your Slack #channels with intent

It’s much easier to get the gist of the conversation and to know what everyone’s contribution should be when we know what’s going on. For the same project, there could be different channels for different stakeholder groups, even going as far as adding descriptions so people know what should be discussed in which channel. 

Also, when using the channel browser, it’s easier to find the topics you’re interested in that you’ll be able to bring value to. In Adaptavist, we have over 400 channels, I can imagine other companies having considerably more than this, so consider having a consistent naming convention.

9. Automate and integrate

Slack is on top gear when it’s used as more than just an instant messenger tool. With it, you can automate your workflows and integrate them with the rest of your software suite.

Why not take a look at the workflow builder to automate your processes? You can even find some apps in the Slack app directory that will enhance your team’s productivity or help with team building.

So what did you think? Did any of these tips resonate? Did I miss anything out? If you’d like some guidance on how to set up a killer Slack workspace for your organisation, reach out!

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