• Jon Saft

Slack: Your best friend or your worst enemy

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

If you work in a technology or software business, you are undoubtedly familiar with Slack. The unique notification sound has become synonymous with inter-office communications, especially as we have all found ourselves living in a remote-first world.

In some ways, Slack has revolutionized and improved the way we work. Its simple UX and sleek interface have streamlined communications for many of us. For advanced users, its automated workflows and integrations have enhanced our ability to connect information from different systems and notify relevant stakeholders when action is required. And of course, non-work related Slack channels can offer a great way for coworkers to connect and get to know each other outside of their typical work-related responsibilities.

When Slack goes wrong

On the other hand, Slack can be incredibly disruptive and overwhelming.

There is nothing worse than a noisy Slack channel. Leave your computer for a couple hours, or worse, take a vacation, and beware the endless notifications and crippling anxiety waiting for you upon return.

When we don't leave our computer, it can be even worse. While some of us might be comfortable turning off email notifications and letting messages sit in our inbox for a while, the Slack notification carries a certain urgency that screams, "I need an answer now!"


The right way to Slack

To avoid this type of notification overload, we have created a system of guidelines and best practices to ensure we take advantage of the good parts of Slack without falling victim to its pitfalls. Try implementing these simple communication guidelines at your company and see how it feels.

  1. Avoid the @here whenever possible. Unless your post is timely (ie. "@here the Zoom pw for the meeting in 5 minutes is xyz"), entire channels very rarely need to be interrupted to answer your question or read your comment. Instead, consider a more targeted approached, mentioning an individual or a Slack group if you require a direct response.

  2. Avoid the @channel always. If coworkers are not at their computer, they do not need a notification spiking their stress levels.

  3. Turn off notifications during meetings. In a world of Zoom meetings, a barrage of Slack notifications can very easily derail an engaged discussion. If you were there in person, you would not keep your computer open and respond to messages, so give your fellow meeting attendees the same respect during a remote meeting. No matter how subtle you think you are, I promise, everyone can tell when you're typing.

  4. Turn off notifications during heads down time. Just like Slack notifications can distract from meetings with other people, they can also completely derail the inner dialogue in your head. When it's time for deep work, make sure you have the time blocked on your calendar and your notifications turned off on your phone and desktop.

  5. Create a system of consistent message reactions. To limit unnecessary messages, utilize Slack's message reactions to convey meaning. For example:

  6. 👀 - Taking a look / Will take a look

  7. ✅ - Action taken

  8. 👍 - Message read and understood

  9. Pause before you post. Perhaps most importantly, take a deep breath before posting or responding to someone else's post. Thoughtful communication should consist of responses instead of reactions. If someone else is mentioned in a post, consider waiting for that person to respond before joining the conversation.

There is no doubt that Slack is here to stay. With the right guardrails in place, that can be a good thing. Without them, and we could all be doomed.

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