I've said before that I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Slack. While it can sometimes be overwhelming, there's no question that it's great for remote teams that want to stay engaged and replicate (at least virtually) the conversations and interactions that naturally happen in a workplace.
Right now, that's more important than ever, with the vast number of Americans working from home to prevent the spread of Covid-19. If that happens to be you, you're probably using Slack, or you've thought about whether it's a good fit for your team.
Here are a few tips you can use to make it work for you:
1. Mute Channels
This could be the most important thing I recommend. There's a good chance your team has more channels than a reasonable person could possibly keep up with. The good news is, you can mute the channels you don't need constant notifications. Instead, simply stop by and check-in when you want. Trust me, you should.
2. Use Status Messages
Slack allows you to set a message to let your team know your status. When you work from home, it can be hard to know whether the person you are messaging is even at their desk. Using status messages is an easy way to manage expectations and let your team know when you're in a meeting or out of office (figuratively at least).
3. Use Threads
Please use threads. There really is nothing worse than trying to sort through which replies belong with which messages. If your organization has more than a handful of members it doesn't take much for this to become overwhelming. To prevent that, don't just drop your reply into a channel, but instead click on the "start a thread" icon. That will help keep everything organized. Your team will thank you.
Speaking of your team, Slack has a useful feature that allows you to notify everyone in a channel, using either the @channel or @here handle. They are essentially the same, except the latter only notifies people who happen to be on right now. That said, it's actually pretty rare that you need to notify everyone. Instead, just post your message, or tag the appropriate people.
5. Star Important Threads
If you come across a conversation you need to save, you can click the little star icon. That will save it to your "starred" items list, which is pretty easy to get to. You can do the same with entire channels, which will move them to the top of your left sidebar. That makes it easy to keep an eye on the most important channels and check on the rest when you have time.
6. Mark All As Read
If you're like me, you probably find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of messages that require your attention on Slack. Fortunately, you can easily access all of your unread messages in one place. Even more importantly, you can simply mark them all as read. I recommend you do it often if you want to keep your sanity.
7. Use Message Reminders.
There are plenty of occasions when I get a Slack message that I know I want to deal with, but I just don't have the time. Fortunately Slack allows you to set a reminder, and it will notify you of the message at a point in the future. Just click the three dots beside any message, and ask Slack to "remind me about this."
8. Create User Groups
Channels work well for organizing your team's conversations, but sometimes you want to make sure to notify a few members of the team. You could always mention each user in the message, but a much easier way is to create a user group, which allows you to tag the group and each member will be notified.
9. Mark as Unread.
Little red dots are my Kryptonite. Seriously, I can barely function when that notification dot or number icon appears. That means I often compulsively go through messages just to get rid of the dot. Except, sometimes I need to come back to something later, and in those cases, the dot is a helpful reminder. Thankfully, Slack allows you to mark items as unread.
10. Set Up Your Notifications
Speaking of little red dots, Slack can get a bit intense, just based on the number of notifications you get by default. In short, Slack notifies you about everything unless you set it up differently. I highly recommend you do. Even though you probably don't want to turn off all notifications (unless you're in deep work and don't want to be interrupted), it's a good idea to chose when you want to be notified and the keywords you want to make sure you don't miss.
11. Pin Important Information
The pin feature is a great way to make important information easily accessible to your team. When you pin a message or thread, users can find it by clicking on the 'pin' icon at the top. If you find yourself answering the same question, or posting the same information more than once, it might be time to just pin it to the channel.