Conquer Slack - Your new virtual office

Where did the physical office disappear? 

The sudden and rapid increase in remote work has been a massive disruption to our professional lives in the past two years. In the process, we lost something that we probably took for granted. A physical workspace that we shared with our colleagues, a space where everything from planned business reviews to spontaneous water cooler conversations occurred. What has replaced the traditional office?

Slack - The new virtual office

Messaging tools such as Slack and Teams have become our new virtual office spaces. In person interactions such as tapping someone on the shoulder to make a request or walking over to have an informal conversation have been replaced by virtual messages on these platforms. Messaging platforms are where the entire company hangs out virtually and everyone is instantly reachable. These platforms have seen a massive increase in adoption and usage since the start of the pandemic.

We are not just talking about tech companies here. Messaging platforms have penetrated traditional sectors as well. Universities, government, financial institutions, manufacturing - everyone is using some form of messaging tool for internal communication. It is no surprise to hear of government officials exchanging information on Teams or hedge fund analysts sharing morning portfolio updates on Slack. 

Over the past few years, we have also seen how messaging tools have been replacing email as the primary medium for internal communication. Users prefer the informal conversational style and the instant gratification that is built into these tools. Email continues to be an excellent tool for contact with external parties. However, internal conversations are often better suited to themed chat channels and quick fire messaging.

Slack fatigue - a new challenge

While the rise of Slack has been very helpful in keeping employees connected in a remote working environment, these new tools bring a host of new challenges. The terms Slack fatigue and notification overload are increasingly part of our vocabulary. Keeping up with all your messages across multiple channels, group chats and DMs has become a new problem. Staying focused on the task at hand when you are constantly receiving notifications is a tricky balance. If you don’t address this, you risk productivity loss and burnout.

How you can conquer Slack 

Remote work is here to stay and there are many good reasons for this. This means that messaging platforms will continue to grow in prominence as our new virtual office spaces. Now is a good time to start taming this beast and make Slack work for you and your team. Here are some recommendations on how you can improve the way you interact with Slack:

Organize your channels

Organizations often have 100s of Slack channels. This is completely fine. However, you don’t have to actively follow every single channel. To maintain your sanity

  • “Star” your most important channels and conversations. These channels will automatically be sorted at the top of your sidebar.
  • Mute or leave most channels that are not relevant to you. Yes, there will be FOMO. But you can always rejoin a channel and catch up on its history if you really wanted to. To begin with, prioritize your time and sanity. 
  • Organize channels into sections. Sections could represent departments (e.g. Marketing, HR) or themes (e.g. Announcements, Weekly meeting, Memes).  

Control your notifications

By default, Slack will send you notifications for every message in every public channel. You don’t need this. Instead:

  • Limit notifications to just @ mentions and direct messages. If you are feeling bold, maybe even turn off notifications and simply use badges on the Slack app icon
  • Set your notification hours to something reasonable (8 AM to 5 PM?)
  • Mute all notification sounds. They can be both annoying and embarrassing when you are in a meeting or trying to focus
  • Show your status with an icon (Busy, Away, At lunch, Out of office, etc). Some Slack apps automatically update your status to reflect when you are in a meeting or on a call. 

Be mindful of how you communicate

It can be tempting and feel natural to use a Slack channel in the same way as you would send text messages to a friend - fire off a bunch of short messages in a quick frenzy. However, remember that every incremental message in a channel could potentially interrupt someone else. These messages also push back any important information further back in the channel history. No one likes to come back to a Slack channel with 80+ unread messages to catch up on. Instead:  

  • Use threads when possible. Threads are a great way to structure a conversation without burdening the entire channel
  • Leverage emojis to acknowledge or approve simple things. This will remove so much noise.
  • When possible, synthesize your communication into one longer message instead of many short ones. Take the time to collect your thoughts. Go back and edit the previous message if you have more to say.

Convert important messages into actions:

Lost in the noise of hundreds of Slack messages are often useful actions and follow ups that need to be attended to. To tackle this,  you can use Clockwork, an app that lets you convert any Slack message into an action item. 

Here is how it works:

Convert messages into actions: 

Use the Slack three dots menu to convert any message into a Clockwork action. Assign actions to team members and set due dates. Clockwork will automatically check in with each assignee on outstanding actions. This way, nothing slips through the cracks and things get done!

Use Slack three dots menu to convert message in action
Set assignee and due dates for your actions
Add comments

Add comments to any Clockwork actions. Comments help you clarify details on tasks or keep team members updated. Mark actions as done once you have completed a task.

Add comments to your actions
Receive reminders 

Receive daily reminders from Clockwork for all your outstanding actions, so that nothing is forgotten. You can also nudge your teammates to provide updates on actions that you have created for them.

Receive timely reminders
Block time 

Seamlessly block time on your calendar to work on an action with our Google calendar integration. Clockwork will find available slots on your calendar and create a calendar event with all the context relevant to the action within the event description. This way you can keep your todo list under control by setting necessary aside time to tackle important tasks. 

Block time on your calendar to work on actions
Stay in control

You can see all your actions in one place in the Clockwork home tab. You can also see actions assigned to teammates and create new actions from here. Stay organized and stay in control! 

See all your actions in one place on the Clockwork Home tab

We built Clockwork to help remote teams operate more efficiently. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Try Clockwork for free today!

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