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How To Improve Your Slack Etiquette

Slack is a super-useful communication tool for organisations, but it’s important to use it with care. Every time you post something on Slack, you’re asking for people’s attention, so use that time productively. Be aware of who and how many people are in a channel. Respect everyone’s time by keeping messages in those channels relevant, purposeful and concise. Here are a few tips to make sure Slack is helpful instead of distracting.

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1/ Style is important

Etiquette is all about being mindful of others’ feelings and communication styles. That mindfulness can be easily lost when everyone in your organisation (from the intern to the founder) is reduced to sentences on a screen. Not everyone has the same communication style, but everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

2/ Be direct

Slack channels can get pretty chaotic when there are a dozen people or more chatting. That’s why it’s good Slack etiquette to call people by name in every message when speaking to them in a public channel.

3/ Avoid multiple mentions

While it’s important to be direct, it’s also important to spare your colleagues from unnecessary and disruptive alerts. Think carefully about who needs to be mentioned in a post on Slack and make it clear why they’re being mentioned. Mentioning five or six people in a single post is unlikely to result in action.

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4/ Assume people are working asynchronously

We never assume that people are available the minute that we need them. It’s important to remember that just because someone is active on Slack doesn’t mean they have the time to read your message the moment it comes in — they could be active in another DM discussion or channel. There’s no need to send a Slack message with “Hello?”, “Did you get this?”, “You there????” – allow people to respond when they have the time.

5/ Set aside time for replies

The corollary to the point above is that you need to take responsibility for replying to Direct Messages (DMs) on Slack. Unless you’re on leave, in workshops, or travelling you should try and respond to all mentions and DMs within 24 hours, even if it’s to say that you can’t give the message any attention yet.

6/ When to DM

Direct messages (DMs) and private channels should only be used if very sensitive information is being discussed or if you’re having a casual, friendly chat with a friend. When the chat moves onto business, please move the discussion back into a public channel.

It’s tempting to use DMs when you think your messages are trivial or may add unnecessary clutter to a channel, but public messages should always be the default and if you’re worried about adding unnecessary clutter, think about how you can be as direct and succinct as possible. Direct messages can be a good way of getting someone’s attention too, but please be careful not to ping someone unnecessarily to get their attention.

7/ Placing calls

In a distributed team it’s often a good idea to arrange a call or video conference to discuss important matters. Slack’s call feature is one easy way to arrange these discussions, but please ask someone if they’d like to have a call and if they’re ready to chat before you call them. You never know if someone needs to turn down the full-blast death metal they listen to while they work or if they need to move to a quieter space. Give your colleagues time to set up before a call.

Advice collated from the following sites:

1/ How to Use Slack at Work: An HR Etiquette Guide

2/ Everything You Are Afraid To Ask About Slack Etiquette

3/ Slack etiquette at Starling

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