When signing up to Slack, you might be inclined to fill out the basic requirements and get started. But setting up your profile thoroughly is an essential (and fun!) way to building a rapport with your colleagues remotely.
Here are some good ones to consider adding:
- Current location
- Name pronunciation
- A fun fact about yourself
“Do Not Disturb” Mode
The “Do Not Disturb” mode on Slack is key to communicate when you should not be reached out to. This is typically applicable for two reasons:
1. Outside of working hours
Set up the times for your notifications to be automatically disabled, so you’re not bothered when going to sleep or first thing in the morning (nobody likes being disturbed before having their first cup of coffee).
2. Focus time
Utilise the “Do not disturb” feature when you need to focus and cannot be distracted. Similarly, disable your desktop notifications; these can be intrusive and distracting, and if you’re on Slack throughout the day, you’ll constantly see things pop up as the messages come in.
Update your Current Status
Just a simple note or an icon can be enough for your colleagues to understand where you are or what you’re up to before sending you a message. Here are a few good examples:
If you are traveling and will generally be unavailable, set up a non- expiring status using the palm tree emoji or airplane emoji. You can also add text about your location or specific status (in transit, flying to Bali, family vacay), letting folks know you may be less responsive.
🥞 Food & coffee time
If you go out for lunch or on a coffee break, keep your colleagues in the loop with a food or coffee emoji. Some of your coworkers may likely be in different time zones, so this gesture can help them understand that you might not respond right away.
🐕 Dog walking
I guess this one doesn’t need much explanation! One of the big benefits of remote working is being able to walk your dog in the middle of the day, and this alerts colleagues you’re out and about.
🌎 Country/Religion specific holiday
If you’re celebrating a holiday that is not a “day off,” set up a simple status and say what days specifically you might not be responding at all. Don’t assume that other countries practicing other religions will automatically know you are away. Use which emoji is appropriate for you.
👓 Focus time
One thing is setting up the “do not disturb,” mode, but you can also drop a link in your status saying you’re currently focusing on a task and will respond in a couple of hours.
🐬 Random mood vibe
Just drop a fun emoji as your status if you feel like it can make someone laugh. This helps foster a connection across remote teams!
One of the coolest things about being part of a remote company is the accessibility you have to all team members. You’re always just a click away from your CEO or an engineer, who may well be on the opposite side of the planet. In comparison to trying to get a word in with virtually anyone in a 400-person traditional office space, a remote company is about as personal as it gets these days.
With this in mind, it’s important to know some basic guidelines on how to approach direct messaging and knowing when it’s better or worse than talking in a @channel.
Respecting work hours and snooze mode
With Slack, something as small as a notification or ping can be enough to pull you out of your focus. In the worst case, it may even take away from your private time, when you’re meant to be enjoying your personal life. If a coworker has made their offline status clear, but you still have a message that’s absolutely imperative to send, make sure to pretext the message with an explanation for its urgency before hitting the “send” button. (Unless there is an absolute emergency, do not “notify over snooze mode.”
Acknowledging messages and requests
You may be busy, you may be swamped with deadlines and projects, but the person who messaged you five minutes ago may not be aware of your workload. As tempted as you might be just to leave it unread, it’s more efficient to take a minute to let them know you’ve seen their message and plan to get back to them later. It can be as easy as using the / / reaction or just a quick, “Hey, got it, will get back to you,” before setting a reminder (right-click on the message) to ping you in X hours so you can respond.
Moving conversations from channels to DM’s
When a conversation on a certain topic starts to take up too much space in the chat, it may be time to move to a more focused setting to resolve the issue. For example:
When discussing assignments or specific projects with a clear action item, it’s often best to take the conversation to a more focused space. This way, you’re able to assign a task to the appropriate person in the appropriate place.
If the chat evolves into a conversation between just two people, it’s better to continue discussing the matter in a DM to avoid overcrowding the channel with 50+ notifications. You can then ping the channel with a resolution or notes from your private convo if necessary.
It’s also best to move critique or constructive criticism to the DM inbox, rather than putting someone on blast in the channel.
DM vs calling
Not everyone particularly likes calling or video calling. Some folks prefer to have more time to process their thoughts or are partial to typing out points rather than discussing them on the spot. However, a quick call can often save hours of discussion over the course of sometimes hundreds of messages.
When to take a call:
- When providing answers or an explanation for a complex topic.
- When discussing an important matter which requires a quick resolution
- When talking to a person who you know loves to message a lot it can be quicker to have a call
When to message instead:
- When asking or answering simple questions that don’t require elaborate explanations.
Tip: mark as “unread”
Do you know those times when you check Slack too quickly? Like when you check your phone first thing in the morning (not the best of habits), take a glance while commuting, or when you’re scrolling while waiting for your coffee to brew? The trouble with these habits is that oftentimes we forget that we’re being asked to answer questions and complete tasks. Messages are often left unanswered, and requests are forgotten.
By the time you get back to work mode, you simply can’t find those messages anymore or better yet, you probably forgot about them altogether or can’t recall what channel they happened on. In those cases, it’s helpful to use the mark unread tool (shortcut: use Alt + click on the message). This way, you’ll be able to check back on all those unanswered questions and inquiries by clicking on the “all unread,” section.