Slack Etiquette Tips For Remote Teams (Is It Slack @Here or @Channel?)
In a traditional office, some general etiquette rules apply. For example, everyone knows to refrain from microwaving fish in the break room or ensure the shared bathroom stays presentable. However, with the rise of the remote workplace, office etiquette is also evolving.
While Slack is a fantastic tool for remote teams to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate on projects, there are some social faux pas that every employee should avoid. For example, is it a good idea to @here if you need something answered, or should you ping the whole channel? How long should a Slack message be? Is asking a question in Slack outside of business hours a bad idea? Thankfully, we've got the answers to these and many more Slack etiquette questions for remote teams, so you can quell your social anxiety and get back to collaboration.
Slack Etiquette at a Glance
- Be Brief
- To Ping or Not to Ping
- Timing is Everything
- Descriptions, Descriptions, Descriptions
- Put a Pin in It
- In Summary
While you may be tempted to include every piece of information relevant to your question in a message, remember Slack is for short messages. So keep your message to the bare essentials if you're asking a question. While you can always clarify things later, sending a wall of text is a sure way to get on your coworker's nerves.
Another way to streamline your messages is to keep things in a thread. Thread replies make it easier to track responses and keep Slack channels looking neat and tidy. Try to keep your replies brief and to the point, and make sure to reply directly in a thread to notify the person you’re talking with that they have a message.
Once you have your answer, let the thread end with a "thanks" and move on to another channel to chat. While you may be tempted to discuss other topics in the same Slack thread, stick to the channel topic and move any extraneous conversations to a private message or chatting channel so that the other Slack members don't get annoyed with constant notifications.
Think of a Slack channel as a central hallway: it's okay to step to the side and ask a coworker a question for a few moments, but if you're standing in the hallway for hours on end, your coworkers may get annoyed or distracted. So keep it brief, keep things direct, and thank whoever answered your message.
To Ping or Not to Ping
If someone is online, there's no need to ping them every time you send a message; save the "@" for times you need to get someone's attention. Directly tagging someone (using the "@" symbol, also known as "pinging" or "notifying") is a helpful way to get their attention, but don't overdo it. Using ping to get attention or update someone immediately would be best. Think of a ping like saying someone's name in a meeting: a direct address is acceptable every once and a while, but if you start every sentence with someone's name, they're bound to get uncomfortable.
The same principle applies to using @here or @channel. @Here notifies anyone currently online in the Slack channel, while @channel notifies everyone in the pipeline, regardless of whether they're online. Think of these two features as raising your hand in a busy meeting. If you need an immediate answer, @ here is an excellent way to get a quick response.
However, @channel should only be used if you need input from every channel member, as it can send out many notifications and should be used sparingly. Similarly to pinging individual users, save @here and @channel for emergencies, as using them all the time is a surefire way to get people to ignore your notifications and get on the channel's nerves.
Timing is Everything
This applies especially to people working across multiple time zones. For example, getting a phone call at 2 AM on a Saturday is a surefire way to annoy anyone, and the same applies to sending work questions on Slack after hours. So while sending a message during your lunch break is acceptable, especially if you're looking for a response when you return to your desk, try to keep Slack messages within the proper channels and work hours.
On timing, pinging the person can be an acceptable way to get more information if you ask a question and don't get a response. However, wait a reasonable amount of time for an answer unless you need an immediate response. While your question may seem larger than life, remember that your coworkers have other tasks and may not have checked their notifications. If it's been a half hour or longer, try reaching out for an answer again, but after that point, try and give the person some time to respond.
It would be best if you also avoided flooding Slack channels with conversations during peak hours of the day, as your question might get lost. Instead, try sending a direct message to get a faster answer or keep side conversations to a minimum to ensure that Slack stays organized. Of course, if everyone is having a group conversation, there are exceptions to the rule, but generally, courtesy goes a long way.
Descriptions, Descriptions, Descriptions
A well-organized Slack channel is a thing of beauty. One crucial piece of Slack etiquette comes down to channel creation. First, a channel name should summarize precisely what the channel is for. For example, if you have a "Just Chatting" channel, you can expect generalized conversations. On the other hand, keep any work channels marked and on topic. Slack channels come with built-in description areas to make it easier than ever to tell each channel's intended use.
One of the critical parts of maintaining Slack order is reading the channel description. If you're in charge of setting up your work's Slack, include clear, concise channel descriptions so everyone knows exactly what each channel is for. If you're going to post in a channel, take a second to check the description to make sure you're posting in the right place. While everyone posts in the wrong channel once in a while, if you send things to the wrong channel all the time, you may start to annoy your coworkers and might slow down productivity by looking for answers in the wrong place.
Put a Pin in It
If you have an important message, pinning it to the channel is a great way to ensure everyone sees the notice. You can effectively reduce questions, streamline channel use, and notify users of important events using pinned messages. Conversely, ensure you only pin important notes, as pinned messages are public to the entire chat, and too many can bog down a channel.
Outside of using pinned messages, keeping Slack conversations brief and to the point, and tabling more extended discussions for video calls and in-person meetings can all help streamline the app and are considered good etiquette for Slack. While it's possible to manage projects, communicate with team members, and have entire conversations on Slack, keeping things within the scope of the app can help reduce missed notifications and keep questions moving.
Keep in mind that while there are plenty of Slack apps to help merge project management with group communication, Slack is not a project management app on its own, so trying to manage several projects through Slack may end up blogging down the app and frustrating your team members. While you can always ask for updates through Slack messages, keep important notifications to more concrete communication channels.
Slack etiquette generally boils down to keeping conversations in the right place, minimizing notifications, and respecting organization. For example, if you didn't send your coworker several emails in a row about a question, you'd keep that same level of respect when messaging over Slack. Whether or not to ping a user depends on the situation. In general, saving pings for essential conversations can minimize notification fatigue and get you a faster response when you need it most.
Remember, Slack is a relatively new part of the workplace, meaning etiquette is constantly evolving. Many of your coworkers are also learning to operate in an online workspace, so be patient with your team, and they'll be patient with you. Being polite and patient and taking the time to read channel descriptions can go a long way toward respecting your online workspace and making the office Slack channel a valuable tool for collaboration and socialization. Make sure to follow any workspace-specific guidelines on your company's Slack channels. If you have any questions, contact your HR department or department heads to learn more about your company's Slack policies.
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