How to Use Slack Effectively in 2020Reading Time: 7 minutes
As many of us settle into this new normalcy of remote work, it is not surprising to know that more and more organizations turn to Slack. The increasing popularity of this platform is easy to understand: Slack offers an adaptable, user-friendly and productive work ecosystem for organizations big and small, working from anywhere. But what is Slack, really? It is a communication and collaboration hub in which emails are being replaced by instant messaging. Yes, this can be scary for fans of work emails out there. It might require a shift of mindset.
Look at it this way: whereas emails in the workplace focus on the individual, Slack focuses on the team project as a whole. While work emails provide an individualized, separated, limited and thus incomplete view of a team project; the collaboration hub opens the channels of communication to address all the nitty gritty of a team project. To better familiarize with the online platform, this article will provide useful tips using Slack for effective remote teamwork and present some of its newly added improvements.
Organize your work via effective channels of communication. This isn’t just true for 2020. This is probably the best Slack tip of all time. The idea behind Slack is to go from an email-based to a project-based model of communication to best benefit remote collaboration. Ideally, each project should correspond to one channel in which anything related to that project – files, meetings, messages, people involved, conversations, assignments, training, etc. are found in one place. If you already have channels, you can make it your 2020 objective to get those channels organized. In fact, to ensure that you are using your channels effectively, you can write up some channel rules.
Another cool tip regarding #Channels: you can disable the creation of new channels by members of your organization who aren’t admins. All Slack-based organizations know how easy it is for channel creation to get out of hand. Finally, you can choose to hide channels without any new activity.
All apps in one place
Bring all the tools you need for each channel. Most-used apps such as G Suite, Office 365, Dropbox, Zoom, including specialized apps can be brought and updated directly into Slack channels. Browse Slack’s app directory to see the tools available for your remote team or if your work applications can be integrated by the platform.
Here’s a pro tip: find out what other companies are using! As a matter of fact, don’t hesitate to ask around and see what other teams, at other organizations are using. There are way to many undiscovered Slack bots out there. These useful plug-ins could potentially save you loads of time! Therefore, don’t worry about investing a bit of your own time in researching what’s out there.
There are apps out there to help manage leave, just like Vacation Tracker. Then, there are applications that can help teams get or stay productive. Finally, there are Slack add-ons that are just fun and games, and those are important too!
For optimal productivity, make sure your sidebar only shows your most frequently visited channels. To customize your sidebar, select your preferences under the sidebar settings. You can name your sections using emojis, rearrange their order, collapse them, etc. Slack has recently made the sidebar more manageable to navigate between items.
Tailored theme for your Sidebar
Furthermore, Slack developers know that Slack-based teams spend a whole lot of time on the collaboration tool. Therefore, they have made it really simple to make the app easy on the eyes. You can set a custom colour for any element in the sidebar, including Text, badges, active items, etc.
You can select from preset theme colours or you can go rogue and customize each element with your favourite colours, by entering the hex codes. Slack Themes offers a plethora of themes available as hex codes.
Customize your notification preferences
Notifications are everywhere. If you have Slack on your mobile device and you have your notifications enabled, you can easily get overwhelmed. As a default, Slack enables a lot of notifications for new users. But of course, these notifications are entirely customizable. In fact, notification settings can even be set by channel. And since a professional user such as yourself probably has Slack on their mobile and desktop, you can certainly also manage the notification preferences by device.
Be careful about @mentions. You probably don’t want to mute notifications where you are specifically mentioned by name!
The Lightning bolt: a shortcut to shortcuts
At the bottom left of the message input field, you will find a neat new feature: a bolt icon which gives a list of actions available for you to take. Through the Lightning bolt feature, you can access several tools quickly, such as reminders, calls and all of your integrated apps.
Bookmark = Starred & Saved
Don’t lose track of what’s important amidst the workflow and the workload. Prioritize by using the star icon. Star a channel or direct message (DM) or files to keep track of important conversations. Starred items will appear in your Starred section under the header of your sidebar.
Your Saved items are also messages and files that you chose so you can easily come back to them to keep track of changes. Hover over the document, and click on the bookmark icon. It will show under the “Saved” section of your Channel’s sidebar.
You can hide the starred items when you don’t need them, or keep them handy in certain conversations.
New People View
With Slack’s instant messaging options, we often neglect face-to-face time. So here’s an interesting idea, especially for remote teams. Have every member of the team upload a personal photo. Then, have easy access to your organization’s directory, with pictures shown like a business card with each profile. It would be even more professional to include job titles and phone numbers in the Team Directory. Since the directory can be searched by name, it’s basically a rolodex for your organization.
This tip will also improve the onboarding of new members in your organization. For an established Slack-based collective, it can be daunting to bring new members into the conversation. Especially for colocated teams, it may be tough for these new members to link the messages with the individuals sending them. The new people view trick helps out these newcomers.
Activity feed = @mentions & reactions
Keep up with the most recent changes in your projects. With the reformatted handy access Mentions & reactions section, you are alerted whenever your username is mentioned. Slack keeps track of all the activities from your remote team, so things can get quite overwhelming. Fear not, you can pick and choose when to get notified by setting your own preferences to make sure you don’t miss anything important to you. For effective use of notifications, use mentions to keep track and be part of the conversation. To get the attention of some specific people, make sure to use the @ symbol and start typing your colleague’s names one by one. Select the ones you would like to mention in your message and they will receive a notification once you post the message.
Emojis make communication fun and functional. They are very effective and snappy ways to convey reactions, approve requests, respond to follow-up messages and cultivate a team culture with customized images. Instead of words, why not use a check to say a task has been completed or approved, or a pair of clapping hands to say “good job!”, or a pair of eyes to say “I’m looking into it”? Thousands of emojis are available in your workspace, and custom emojis as well. You can create and add them by uploading new images from the workspace menu in your desktop Slack application.
On the other hand, if custom Emoji use is getting out of hand on your Slack channels, you can restrict the use of custom Emoji to admins only.
Search in Slack
The newly improved and universal search bar is central. It’s considered by most to be Slack’s best feature. Unlike searching through a cluttered email inbox, Slack’s search function is highly powerful and offers informed search suggestions.
To find a file, a message, a conversation, a coworker, simply type your keywords on the search bar at the top of your desktop app.
– To search channels: ctrl/cmd T or K
– To search message and file content only: ctrl/cmd G
– If you’d like to look up messages sent today: after:yesterday
History, not misery
Here’s what it’s like sometimes: you have 19 parallel discussions happening in 18 separate channels. Do you ever have a moment where you can’t remember where you posted what?
Maybe it’s easier to search or remind yourself of something by retracing your virtual steps. Click on the clock icon and go through the list of your most recent activities using the right and left arrows. Easy peasy.
Edit in Slack
Every Slack post is editable! It’s a thing of beauty. We can’t rave enough about this feature. You probably already know how to edit your Slack posts. (You hover over the message, go into more options and select “Edit message”.) But did you know that you can also simply click the “up” key on your keyboard to edit your most recently posted message?
Slack keeps tasks on track
Organize teamwork by creating and assigning tasks within Slack. It’s an effective way to visually keep track of the project progression, explore ideas, see what works and what needs adjustments. Install apps like Asana or Trello or Workast to make your task assignment even more effective.
Slack keeps your life on track
Are you ever in the middle of a Slack call or in the middle of a chat discussion when you remember you have to do something? Did you forget to go grocery shopping after work? Are you due for some laundry?
Instead of forgetting about a personal task again, you can set yourself a reminder on Slack. With Slack, you can remind yourself about your to-do’s at any time. Set personal reminders by typing /remind me to go grocery shopping after work. You can evidently also set reminder for work-related tasks. However, you can also rest assured that Slack’s got your back if ever you need to keep your personal life organized too. These reminders are completely private.
Sync Slack Status
Update your Slack Status by syncing your calendar events with all your team members. Indeed, you should aim to inform your team of your availabilities in real-time. A handy way to update your team on your daily whereabouts is with the /me command. If you want to announce something about yourself to your team in the third person, you could type “/me is leaving for the day”. The team would see it as ” Alex is leaving for the day”.
This transparency lets people set their expectations as to when you might be able to respond. This works with Outlook and Google calendar apps. In addition to schedules, you can also see who and when some of your teammates are absent or on vacation with Vacation Tracker.
Indeed, integrations are a great way to make your use of Slack even more effective. Vacation Tracker integrates seamlessly with Slack. It takes the leg-work out of planning and managing leaves in any type of organization. For a demonstration of Vacation Tracker, you can click the link at the end of this article.
No drifting drafts
Now, any new entry you start will be conveniently left unsent and saved as a draft exactly where you started it. Of course, to get the most out of Slack, you will want to install the mobile app. It’s available for iOS and Android. So that even if you’re on the go, you’ll be able to finish that draft!
Shirley is a Vacation Tracker occasional contributor. She’s held a few positions in communications, marketing and copywriting. When she’s not at her laptop, you can find her daydreaming about her laptop and chasing the sun while people watching.