At the start of 2016, we decided to streamline our internal communications by stepping away from email and using Slack. This change came out of a need to communicate and work with each other more effectively and efficiently - we were using too many channels of communications and the noise was getting overwhelming.
The choice to use Slack as our single channel was not a snap decision, but a well informed one, as it was already one of the numerous tools that we were using (email / Basecamp / face-to-face / post-it notes were a few of the others). Slack seemed like the best tool for being able to:
- direct messages to the people that they needed to get to
- keep up to date with who was out of the office
- communicate in other, interactive ways to get the response you need (e.g. using an emoji instead of a long, ‘reply all’ email chain)
To get our existing Slack work space ship shape, it required a bit of attention and editing to ensure that we have a place for everything. Of course, this is being continually iterated as needs arise, but to start with we cut down our main channels and ensured our name conventions for them was clear and consistent. Here are a few examples of the most frequented channels:
#announcements - this is where all important company announcements are made. If you don’t keep an eye on what’s going on here, then you miss out knowing that you get your birthday off work and who the new person in your team is.
#ooo - this is the place to let people know where you are when you’re ‘out of office’ (ooo). Whether you’re working remotely, in London visiting a client or on holiday for two weeks in Central America this is the place to let the team know.
#proj - we have a Slack channel for each project we’re working on. Only team members directly working on each project are invited to the channel to keep the noise down for the rest of us.
We also have a healthy smorgasbord of other channels to share inspiring articles, who’s going running at lunch time, ordering more post-it notes or finding out if there’s a free car parking space. These channels are optional as we appreciate not everyone needs to know the details in them.
We encourage everyone to use their status like their receptionist - to visually let others know what they’re up to and whether or not they’re available. I’m writing this whilst working from home so have a very quaint, little house next to my name so that people know that I’m not on an extended lunch break.
To make sure that everyone receives the same message about how we should (ideally) be using Slack, we put together a fantastic guide to get everyone up to speed. This has been a great tool for new starters who may not be used to using Slack to get up to speed. As our ways of working in Slack have evolved, we’ve been sure to keep this guide current and correct.
Reducing the noise
Included in our Slack guide is how to reduce the noise to help you keep focused. There are many ways you can personalise Slack to control how available you are to others and what you are notified about, when. Here are some of our top tips to keep the noise down:
- If you want to make an aside or say something off-topic consider replying in a thread, so the main conversation doesn’t get derailed
- Use reactions instead of replying (e.g. ✅ for yes, 👍 for thanks, 👀 for I’m looking at it)
- Set reminders to come back to a message later
- Star important messages
- Make use of the Do Not Disturb and snooze settings
Like all processes, there’s no doubt that the way we use Slack will continue to require our attention to ensure we are using it as effectively as possible . For now, Slack is not only working as a positive channel of communication, but it is also allowing our team to work with greater clarity, autonomy and confidence when working remotely.