How to Slack

Simple rules for reducing stress and burnout.

Feb 26, 2022 ยท 5 min read ยท


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