Using slack effectively

Located in: Work
Status: 🌿 Budding

What to use Slack for?

Use Slack for:

  • Sharing links, fun/social conversations
  • Questions
  • Sharing kudos

Don't use Slack for:

How to manage your Slack

How to communicate

  • Don't say "Hi" and wait for a response. It's great to be polite, but go ahead and write out the entire message so the conversation can move ahead asynchronously. This is really important for managers, nothing worse than getting a "Hi" from your boss with no details.
  • Break up long text into separate messages, especially any text that covers multiple topics. By splitting it into separate messages, it's easier to thread the conversation.
  • Reply using threads, it decreases the noise of the Slack channel and makes it easier for people to follow the conversation.
  • Avoid @channel, default to @here. It will only notify people that are online at this time.
  • Try to avoid @here unless it's absolutely necessary.
  • Don't mention someone unless they need to be aware of the message and take action on it. When you mention them they'll be notified, potentially distracting them from something else.
  • If you need a response, include the urgency or deadline at the start of the message. Most people skim Slack messages and may not immediately respond unless it's called out.

Do Not Disturb and your status

  • Make sure to set up your DND hours on Slack.
  • Respect everyone when they are marked as DND. The ablity to override DND and send a notification should only be used in emergencies.
  • Use a tool like Clockwise to set DND when you are in a meeting otherwise the Slack notifications will drive you nuts.
  • Don't hesitate to mark yourself as DND or Away on Slack if you need to focus. You don't need to be constantly on Slack to be impactful (it's the reverse!).
  • Use the status field to set expectations on your ability to respond. For example, when you are on vacation you can set your status to "Off Thursday and Friday with limited internet"

Default to public

  • Avoid DMing people, especially when it's a question. If you ask in a public channel, you'll get a faster response (more people are able to answer) and someone else might be interested in the answer.

Creating channels

  • Be certain you need a new Slack channel. Slack channels are cheap to create but they can create friction, confusion, or a lot more noise.
  • Other than team channels, you should create channels that are cross-functional. For example, have a single project channel (#project-redesign) instead of discipline specific (#project-redesign-marketing, #project-redesign-development, etc)
  • Set the description of the channel when you create it, also include bookmarks to any relevant tools or documentation.
  • Default to creating a public channel. You can't turn a private channel public after the fact, so unless it has to do with confidential information it should be public.

How to manage your organization's Slack

Organizing Slack Channels

An effective way to organize your Slack channels is using a common set of prefixes for the channels. Slack has a guide with example prefixes. For example, these are some of the prefixes I have used:

  • #project- – Specific project channels
  • #help- – Ask for help on specific topics, it's common to break this down by team (#help-product, #help-engineering).
  • #team- – Team channels used for communicating within a team. Because we Default to transparency team Slack channels are public. Anyone can join these channels, but they should be aware there is a lot of noise that is not relevant for them. Questions to the team should be asked in the #help- channel.

Set up profiles

  • When onboarding new employees, make sure they fill out their Slack profile.
  • Review the profile fields you have configured, I recommend having:
    • Your full name
    • Display name - In most cases this should be your full name. Otherwise it could create confusion (there are at least 2 Chris's in every company)
    • Pronouns - it's a way to normalize the use of pronouns and make everyone feel included
    • Profile photo - It should be a recent and real photo, cartoon avatars are cool but that doesn't help people recognize you.
    • Your role