Five Years on Slack: Our Rules of Engagement
This year marks five years since Storyware started using Slack. It has been a game-changer for our internal communication. Email traffic between our team is down to almost zero since most of our communication occurs in Slack or our task management platform, asana. Of course, this isn’t that surprising. It’s the main reason Slack is so successful. Over the course of the year, I will outline how we use Slack, what works and what hasn’t.
Most of our “rules” or expectations for communicating via Slack evolved naturally over time, but it took some trial and error to get things just right. Here are 10 rules that we stand by.
1. Good Morning and Good Night
This one is pretty simple. Everyone is expected to slack good morning in our #team channel when they start their day and good night when they log off for the day. In addition, any time that we log off (for lunch, a meeting, break, etc) we let our #team channel know.
2. When you’re on, you’re On. We’re you’re not, you’re Not.
I ask everyone to install Slack on their phone, but for emergency purposes only. Therefore, turning off mobile notifications is highly encouraged. Once you log off, you aren’t expected to respond to a Slack message (even if you receive a DM) until you are online again. That’s why rule number one is so important.
3. Put the message in a #channel
Even if a Slack message is directed to one person, it should be posted in the appropriate channel and not via DM. Most of our channels correspond to a project, so you never know when another team member might need that information in the future. Following this rule has transformed Slack into a valuable archive that’s simple to search.
4. Be careful using Slack with customers
Unless you have set clear expectations on response times, communicating with customers via Slack can be a tough balancing act. On one hand, it can really streamline communications. On the other hand, it can completely distract you from getting your work done.
We’ve used Slack effectively with customers when we are only dealing with one project at a time. This is a rare occasion, but it’s worked because that customer is our only priority. Otherwise, using Slack to communicate with customers is not something we recommend. If you do though, I recommend using shared channels.
5. Use @here instead of @channel
@channel alerts everyone in a channel whether they are online or offline. @here only notifies those who are currently online. Don’t @channel unless it truly is necessary.
6. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you can’t respond right now
Since we have Slack open during the work day, it can be tough to focus on a task for a while without interruption. When we are heads down and a Slack message comes across the screen, we want our employees to let others know that they are busy/can’t answer now/will get back to them later.
7. Slack before you deploy
Anytime a deployment is performed, the build manager informs the appropriate channel before hand. This is crucial in case someone else is working on the project.
8. Customize and limit notifications
I’ve set my desktop notifications to fire when @todd, @here, or @channel is used. That alone produces plenty of notifications. On mobile, only the use of the word “DOWN” (as in “Website Down”) triggers a notification (see rule number two).
9. Pick up the “phone”
When a Slack conversation becomes cumbersome, we don’t hesitate to use Slack’s video conference call feature.
10. Slack instead of email
Our most important rule of engagement is to use Slack instead of email for all internal communication. With no other messages competing for our attention in Slack, this rule ensures that messages between the team are processed in a timely manner and not lost into the abyss that is email.
As CEO of Storyware, Todd oversees the direction of the company, business development and operations along with consulting key clients on digital strategy.