Do not be alarmed by the headline, we have not changed to some sort of demotivational blog. But, I’m really excited to talk about why I’m a Slacker. Slack is my favorite communication and collaboration tool. It’s actually so much of a way of life for me that I wanted to give it the real estate it deserves. There are so many options that have come out over the past few years: WhatsApp, Teams, Google Hangouts/Chat, Teamwork Chat, Basecamp Campfire, and Skype. But, Slack has made all the difference to me, my team, and my colleagues in how we do work and develop relationships.
What is Slack?
Slack is “where work happens.” It is an internal tool intended to provide immediate communication. It’s a replacement for texting, many emails, and some phone calls. It’s a great way to get quick questions answered, schedule meetings, or to discuss things that apply to groups of team members. It has huge implications for virtual businesses and remote workers by helping build teamwork when you aren’t there physically. And it replaces “water cooler” talk or the things we might discuss if we were to stop into each others’ offices.
Slack launched in 2014. It’s been the biggest disrupter since Salesforce. Slack’s VP of Product Development has been quoted saying that Slack channels will replace email as the primary means of communication by 2025. So, it isn’t going anywhere, and if you haven’t had exposure to it yet, it could be coming to an office near you very soon.
Create workplace efficiencies
An average employee sends 97 emails per day and receives 43 and probably has hundreds of unread emails. But one study found that Slack reduces internal email by 48.2% on average and can reduce meetings by 25%, given its ability to enable fluid discussion and real-time decision making on the platform. Wouldn’t you like more of that in your life? I would!
It lets you have direct conversations, group messages, phone calls and more, all collected in separate channels and workgroups. You can set reminders to follow up on specific messages and connect to several project management tools. When used correctly, it helps reinvent collaboration, workflow, and productivity. It is the #1 way I communicate with my team as well as with a ton of other teams. I have at least 10 channels with my team to help us stay focused and work effectively.
Better access to the information you actually need
Slack gives you the power to control what you see, and sometimes more importantly, what you can’t see. You can join conversations and channels that are related to your role, and leave when they no longer apply. Ever been left off an email thread that went on for weeks without you? Conversations locked away in endless email chains will be a thing of the past. Or how about this one — ever been trapped in an email thread that went on for weeks but didn’t pertain to you? With Slack, you can leave.
Slack is also great for new employee onboarding. Instead of someone starting with an empty email inbox, with Slack, they can jump into your company’s archive and access past conversations and information instantly.
Separate personal life from work life
One of the biggest objections I hear about using Slack is “why would I use Slack instead of texting?” With Slack you can turn off and on the notifications on your phone, unlike texting. You can’t add a “remind me to respond to this text message tomorrow morning” flag on a text after you have read it. You have to remember to respond. It helps us create boundaries with our personal lives but also has insurance to make sure the ball doesn’t get dropped, messages are kept, and things can be nudged and reminded.
There’s truly a Slack feature for everyone. I love this fun video that shows its ranges of uses. So here are just a few of our favorite Slack hacks (and these are just the tip of the iceberg).
- Channels: Channels help destroy silos and get focused information to more groups of people. See ya later long email threads.
- Remind me: One of the biggest reasons why Slack is better than texting. “Remind me” allows you to set reminders for when you respond to messages and more.
- Emojis: Effective communication doesn’t have to be just words. Slack has a full range of emojis to express feelings and drive less formal conversations. If you’re a virtual workplace, using Slack emojis is actually a great way to help improve your virtual relationships and show your personality. You can even add or create your own emojis specific to your workgroup.
- The star: If something can be resolved later — star it. Come back to it. Not everything needs a response immediately. Starred messages will appear in starred item panel so that you’re essentially converting messages into your to-do list.
- Message yourself: Start a direct conversation with yourself! You can send yourself links to articles, random ideas, etc. Essentially, the virtual post-it note.
- Highlighting words: The tool notifies you when you’re @mentioned in a channel, but, if you’ve got a few keywords that are relevant to what you do, you can create a list of keywords and Slack will notify you when they are used in any of your channels.
A Few Words on “Slackiquette”
I think people can be hesitant to introduce another type of tool to their teams, especially a communication tool. Trust me, I get it. I’ve seen and read instances of truly terrible Slackers! Bosses use it expecting immediate responses from employees (see above where I explain how it’s different from texting). Or, teams turn Slack into a social media channel. It’s not to be used as Facebook or Instagram. No one wants to see a picture of your lunch. And it most certainly is not an interoffice dating app.
These challenges can lead many to say that “Slack is annoying.” Slack is not annoying. But the way people use Slack can be annoying. So it’s important for successful adoption that you act as a respectful Slack user and collaborate with kindness. Just like you would have meeting best practices or HR rules, you can also write your own rules of the road. Buffer (our preferred tool for social media) created their own “Slack Agreements of Buffer” to help set guiding principles for using Slack. Making it work for your culture is key. Maybe that means encouraging “Do Not Disturb” and muting channels. Or, maybe it means creating a channel dedicated to socializing.
How We Help Clients
Beyond the Chaos has a combined 12 years of working with Slack (remember, it has only been on the market since ‘14). Our goal is to help clients use Slack thoughtfully and productively. A positive onboarding experience will help increase the adoption of efficient use of Slack. It’s an intuitive tool, making it easy to use, but I encourage you to still train your employees on how to use a collaboration tool that supposedly “doesn’t need training.” Here’s how we can help your team use Slack:
- Train entire staff or individuals
- Create guiding principles for how your organization wants to use Slack
- Set up your channels for your internal teams
- Provide you tips for productivity
- Create community and develop relationships through virtual huddles
The basic package is free. Start Slacking!
Originally published at Beyond the Chaos: Small Business Project Management and Operations Consulting.