How to Slack

Simple rules for reducing stress and burnout.

Feb 26, 2022 ยท 5 min read ยท
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Intro

As COVID hit and people who were used to working in an office had to start working remotely, Slack (and similar tools) became the de facto standard for communication. A "ping" became the new knock on a shoulder and people became frustrated when a reply was delayed. All of this leads to availability stress followed by burnout. However, I feel that my team and I have come up with a good set of rules to combat this.

Best practices

Don't just say hello

  • Slack is asynchronous by nature, which means you can never expect an instant response.

  • Prefer being responsive over being reactive

  • Prefer one long message over many short ones, to reduce the number of notifications the receiver gets.

  • Make sure the point you want to get across is in the first message you send. This significantly reduces lead time.

  • Sum up your thoughts in a longer message instead of asking to hop on a call.

    • Calls are useful for complex questions, but most questions are not complex.
  • Writing longer messages helps you think by forcing you to structure your thoughts.

Explicit > implicit

  • Don't use abbreviations

    • They can be ambiguous and lead to miss-understandings

    • They are confusing to new team members who don't have the full context.

  • When writing a question or comment prefer giving the full context

  • Think about including enough information so that the reader doesn't have to leave the text to get the full picture

    • When writing something about a ticket (we use Favro, but also applies to Jira, Trello, Basecamp etc), include some context on the ticket itself

    • Just linking to the ticket requires the reader to context switch between Slack and Favro.

  • This includes Standup messages

    • Yes, written standups are great.

Slack is transient

  • Even if we organize in channels, all information eventually gets lost.

    • Search is powerful, but only if you know what you are looking for

    • As soon as a decision has been made regarding a feature, an epic or a bug, this information needs to be copied over to the respective card in Favro.

Reply in thread

  • Threads are how you keep organized, even with multiple conversations going on in the same channel.

    • Use the message in the channel as the topic for the conversation.

      • The first message in the thread should give the full context (be explicit)
    • Only people in the thread will get notified by messages in the thread

      • This means less risk of disturbing your co-workers

        • Makes notifications useful again

Reacting to a message is a good signal that something is read.

  • A thumbs up, ok hand or rocket, lets the author know that you have seen it and will take appropriate action.

  • Sometimes there needs to be more context and the conversation continues, but sometimes a simple thumbs up is enough.

  • Prefer adding reacting one time too much rather than reacting one time too little.

  • Emojis make people smile. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Prefer to keep most of the communication in public channels, rather than private messages.

  • Keep a public by default mindset

  • Oversharing of information is encouraged

    • You never know who might find the information useful

    • You never know who might have good input on the things you share

  • Use #random for anything that is not work-related.

It's ok to turn off notifications

  • Don't expect instant or even quick replies

  • Muting channels that are less urgent to you is perfectly fine, and might even be required

    • Ignoring notifications for a channel is not the same as ignoring the content in the channel. It just means you take responsibility to update yourself on your own time.

Use status updates

  • Even with asynchronous work, it can be nice to know what team members are doing right now.

    • Statuses are great for this
  • Examples of when it can be used include

    • ๐Ÿš when on your lunch break

    • ๐Ÿฆท when at the dentist

    • ๐Ÿ‹๐Ÿป when at the gym

    • โœˆ๏ธ when traveling

  • Leverage auto-clearing of statuses by setting an appropriate time

  • Use a Calendar integration to automatically get a status set when in meetings

Heads up!

After over a decade of building apps, teams and companies, I've now started coaching founders and CTOs through something that I call Nyblom-as-a-Service.

If this is something that would be interesting to you feel free to schedule a free discovery call to see if we are a good match for each other.

ยฉ 2023 Viktor Nyblom