Slack Etiquette Guide: 10 Do’s And Don’ts
Slack etiquette. A phrase you’re familiar with or an alien concept? It’s rarely anything in between.
The nature of chat apps makes it tempting to blur the lines of workplace conversation. Are emojis unprofessional? Should I share a photo of my breakfast? How do I reply to messages without breaking up the flow of conversation?
This is Slack etiquette.
The prevalence of remote work necessitates a standardized knowledge of do’s and don’ts. This guide will help to define clear guidelines for Slack etiquette that you can take with you wherever you go.
In this post, we introduce what Slack etiquette is, five of the most important rules to live by, and five things you must avoid at all costs.
What is Slack etiquette?
Slack etiquette is a code of behavior that helps the preservation of workspace boundaries. It promotes a harmonious and comfortable baseline for communication. It also maximizes the vast features that Slack offers.
Good Slack etiquette isn’t only for others. It is a way to maximize your own productivity while refraining from interrupting others as they go about their day.
What are the top five Slack etiquette tips?
Slack etiquette differs from company to company. That’s the beauty of collaboration apps: you can make them whatever you want to be.
That said, it’s important to maintain standards that facilitate a professional workplace environment. Just like how you would behave a certain way at the office, upholding a code of conduct online is beneficial to keeping everyone focused and on task.
We’ve already documented Slack best practices for productivity so this post focuses purely on Slack etiquette.
1 – Do write to be understood
Use direct, succinct language. Try your best to write out your entire point within one message, using bullet points and numbers for additional organization. Every moment of the work day is an opportunity for productivity. Even notifications can be a chance to share useful information.
Given the asynchronous nature of Slack, messages that don’t paint the whole picture lead to confusion.
Imagine your colleague lives in a different time zone. They read your message during their working hours and don’t understand what you are referring to. They reach out but you’re now off the clock, and the message only gets responded to during your next business day. Even worse, the message now turns into a call, cutting into either your or your coworker’s personal time.
Writing self-contained, contextual messages prevents misunderstandings. Save on time spent reaching out for clarification by including all necessary information in your first message.
Slack has a great guide on formatting messages so you’ve no excuse to write a baffling message.
2 – Do use threads to maintain conversation flow
Slack threads enable users to reply directly to topics and messages that pertain to them.
Replying within a thread declutters the channel and helps maintain control of the workspace. There is no need for conversations to vie for attention. Threads ensure that responses are seen by the necessary eyes.
3 – Do schedule messages when people are off
The Slack scheduled send feature allows you to send messages at a set time. You don’t need to hold your thoughts in until someone is online again or log in off-hours to chat with an overseas coworker.
Scheduling a message for a user’s working hours is a great way to respect boundaries. We’re all guilty of reaching for the phone the minute we hear it ping, regardless of what time it is. Racing to respond to notifications even when we are off the clock increases burnout, anxiety, and stress. Mitigate the intrusion by scheduling messages for a user’s working hours.
Other things to factor in here are communicating the use of Do Not Disturb and customizing your Slack notifications. Set yourself up for success by clearly defining when you are working, and when you are not.
4 – Do appreciate asynchronous communication
Be wary of approaching Slack with the same mentality as you might other chat apps. Slack is not instant messaging and that’s one of the most beneficial things about it.
Asynchronous communication goes beyond mitigating your response expectations. It is a modality that gives each employee the freedom to work in a way that best benefits their natural flow.
Whether due to time differences, meetings, or personal matters, you will not always receive an immediate response. Appreciate the benefits of being able to share and reply to information on your own timeline (within reason).
5 – Do communicate how your business uses Slack
Every business is different so make sure you let everyone know how you use Slack in your organization.
If someone has joined from another company that uses Slack, they may have different expectations. Your company might maintain a casual Slack culture, using emojis and Gifs.
Should your new hire join from a company with a more formal Slack culture, or one that doesn’t use Slack at all, learning the ropes can be a daunting task.
Consider including your company’s Slack etiquette as a part of the onboarding process. Providing documents and support to new hires can minimize friction and allow for a smoother transition.
Don’t forget you can also pin them to a Slack channel so people can check back if they’re unsure.
What should you not do on Slack?
As well as following the five do’s for Slack etiquette, it’s as important to avoid some common behaviors.
6 – Don’t @channel or @everyone all the time
When you @channel, everyone who is in the channel will get a notification. With @everyone, all members of the general channel will be notified.
Use these sparingly to ensure only the people who need to see your message are notified. Overusing @channel and @everyone is intrusive and interrupts users focused on deep work.
Prevent misunderstandings and confusion by only @mentioning the people who need to see your message.
7 – Don’t ignore availability statuses
If someone is marked as away, that’s for a reason. It’s no good spamming people to get their attention. This causes annoyance and discomfort when users have updated their availability.
One of Slack’s best features is its potential for third-party integrations. Consider adding a calendar app synced with your work schedule, allowing coworkers to see when you are in a meeting. This helps to mitigate response expectations without having to ask you directly.
Notification fatigue is a real thing. Respect your coworkers’ availability statuses and you may find that your own work-life balance improves as well.
8 – Don’t use channels as direct messages
If there’s a topic that only concerns you and one other person, directly message them about it. When the rest of the channel doesn’t need to hear it, it could be a DM.
For example, Terry and Sonya are working on slides for a case study. It isn’t necessary for Terry to share this information in the #general channel, even if he does @Sonya.
A DM would be a great place to discuss logistics and next steps. Sharing this information in the #general channel would cause confusion among those uninvolved in the project.
Consider who benefits from seeing your message and who you need a reply from.
9 – Don’t just say hello
Unlike instant messenger platforms, people aren’t waiting around for casual conversation. Sure, if it’s your work bestie then you might operate this way. But if it’s a colleague, direct report, or manager, use that first message as your opportunity to send a good message.
Try to include all details in one succinct message. This sets the tone for a clear response thread. Your coworker may even be able to catch a snippet of what your message is through the notification that pops up.
In the same respect, you can use reactjis as signs of approval or disapproval. There’s little need to send messages like “okay” or “great” when you agree with something. A well-timed 👍 or 🔥 reactji goes a long way.
10 – Don’t add someone to a channel without letting them know
Avoid confusion by letting someone know that you’ll be adding them to a channel beforehand.
As each channel is geared towards a specific department, project, or topic, adding someone means that they have a part to play. You wouldn’t add someone to a project without letting them know about their responsibilities beforehand.
Keep this in mind when it comes to channels as well.
When should you not use Slack?
Okay, so you’ve gone all-in on Slack. Are there times when you shouldn’t use Slack?
What about when your colleagues use different platforms? Should you force them to use Slack?
No, absolutely not. If your colleagues use Microsoft Teams and you haven’t converted them to Slack, pushing for a change would likely cause frustration. As a Slack devotee, you may not want to migrate to Microsoft Teams either.
With Mio, the answer to this question is never. Mio’s cross-platform interoperability makes it so that you never have to leave the platform you are most comfortable on.
You can stay in Slack and send messages to colleagues on Microsoft Teams.
As well as a standard chat message, the following functionality is supported:
- Message edits
- Message deletions
- Channel messages
- Group messages
- GIFs and emojis
- File uploads
- Rich text formatting
When you send a message from Slack to Teams (or vice versa), you can treat it exactly like a standard Slack message. There’s no change to the UI or any behavior.
The great thing about Slack etiquette is that it is generally good behavior for other messaging platforms as well.
Shouldn’t your messages have as wide a reach as the good communication practices that you’ve put in place? With Mio, they can.
If this sounds like something you need, learn more about Mio here.