Improve productivity when using Slack

Slack is a fantastic tool for communication, particularly in a world of remote work. It’s great for async collaboration, to ask questions and get quick answers. However, Slack can also be distracting, particularly in companies that are growing fast. Here’s a few things you could do to improve productivity and collaboration when using Slack.

📢 Default to public channels

Could anyone else in the org benefit from a question you might have, or a discussion you might start? The answer is yes, most of the time. Defaulting to public channels allows everyone in the company to have visibility into discussions. It’s a healthy way for discussions and topics to develop, it opens the door to folks who might have ideas or context to join in, and other team members to follow up and learn. We should all feel empowered to ask questions openly and contribute with answers.

Use emails and DMs for personal or sensitive matters, but you can tag individuals who might be relevant or know more about the subject you want to discuss on Slack.

🧵 Use threads for everything

Using threads is constantly overlooked, but a powerful way to keep track of discussions, not miss important topics and to keep channels tidy, usable and easy to follow. Imagine coming back from holidays, or a day off, or even a lunch break and trying to catch up on a channel after a few (potentially) important discussions have happened — if we don’t use threads, that’s a hard job and you’ll probably give up. We should apply the same level of rigour that we do in our products to our ways of communicating.

We should apply the same level of rigour that we do in our products to our ways of communicating.

Anything can be a thread. If you need feedback on a piece of work, create a thread. If someone posts a question, a comment or shares anything that you may have an opinion on, reply on a thread. If your reply should be seen by everyone else in the channel, or contains important information, you can tick the box “also send to #[x]” and the message will be pulled out of the thread for everyone to see.

Avoid posting media directly into the channels and reply to requests/questions in a thread
If your reply contains important information, or you need more people to see it, you can tick this box and the message will be pulled out of the thread for everyone to see

❗️Semantic emojis

This is one of my absolute favourites. Using emojis to start a discussion or ask a question helps people quickly scan/identify what the topic is about and what the person who posted might be after. This helps reduce cognitive effort when looking at channels and boosts speed for getting answers.

There are simple ways to achieve this, here are some examples that have worked well in some organisations.

ℹ️ General info
❔Question (not urgent)
❓Question (urgent)
⚪️ Feedback wanted (not urgent)
🔵 Action required (not urgent)
🔴 Action required (urgent)
📣 Announcement
💡 Idea

Using semantic emojis helps reduce cognitive effort when looking at channels and boosts speed for getting answers.

✏️ Add a description to all channels, and useful links

Every channel should have a description. Ensure you add one, and any useful links to the channel settings. This allows existing and new team members to learn about channels, understand their purpose and find what they need quicker.

The description should be why the channels exists. Is it a team channel? Which team? What do they do? Where do I find them? Is it a channel for chit-chat? Is it a channel for company announcements? Let people know.

👤 Keep your profile up-to-date

As companies grow, it’s important to be able to find out who’s who and what they do within the organisation. Someone posted an interesting insight on a thread, but what’s their role? Where do I find them? What team do they work with?

Keep yours up to date with your photo, full name, role and team. You can also enter your preferred pronoun and timezone to help your peers better communicate with you.

Bonus

  • Improve your sidebar: star channels and people you communicate often and leave channels you don’t use.
  • Beware of acronyms: always assume someone might not know what it means.
  • Try to write short messages: create threads for more details and media sharing.
  • Use the threads tab: don’t miss any replies on the discussions you’re a part of.
  • Over-communicate: particularly when working remotely. Let your peers know when you’re out for lunch or finishing for the day.

Slack has shared some interesting insights on how they use emoji to better communicate and get work done.

Most of these learnings come from my time working at Monzo, where they have the most impressive use of Slack I’ve ever seen. Thanks for showing the way! 😄

Product Design @stripe, ex @monzo