We adopted Slack a few years back when we moved away from Hipchat. Slack was the shiny new rising star of team communication, and we wanted in. The UI was excellent, and just like most tech teams, we ditched the old and hopped onto the shiny new bandwagon.
Life was going to be awesome, and we are all going to be in control of our work on Slack.
So it seemed.
Over the last year, I have been finding myself de-focusing and getting interrupted due to Slack being open on my computer most of the work day. It interrupts me at the wrong time, and I too make the mistake of interrupting people because it is so easy to do the same. The thinking goes - why bother with email when one can quickly send a Slack message and get a response immediately. The end of the wait.
I have been thinking about this a lot, and maybe my team is not using the tool correctly (or having the right settings) but I had to figure out what's going wrong.
So, here is what we have come up.
Treat Slack as a social network. By default, mute it. Dip in when free.
Since we are using Slack for work, use the settings to tame it for work and nothing else. For example, I have muted every channel except the ones that I want to pay attention to (accounts, bugs, features, mobile, support). The only way I get notified there is if someone directly uses @myname or directly messages me. I don't even see it as a channel that is pending reply until I open the app and it has the number of discussions I haven't read, which I choose to read when I have time.
As a team, I encourage email (or our project management software) for low priority stuff or lengthy discussions or anything that does not need an immediate solution (it is essential to discuss this rule with the team). For example, my developer wants me to go over a few security guidelines from a vendor and how that would affect our app. I would prefer to get an email about this so I can look at it at my time and revert to him after I have thought this through. Or, I need to work on the text for the changelog - an email would be right here so I can think about what we want to write and then send it over. No need for Slack here.
If it's high priority or needs attention NOW, then we hop on to Slack to discuss and hash out. For example, my developer and I are debating about the current mobile release that we are deploying today. I would use Slack for this.
If it's not urgent or does not need a quick discussion, it should NOT be on Slack.
If I want to share something with the team, then I would use Slack. I am hoping that all team members have their notifications and mute options set up correctly to not get interrupted while working.
Non-important Channels like #General #office #Reading #Buzz etc. can be muted out by default.
Quick wins and announcements are good in Slack.
In a nutshell, here are my rules:
Email - Non-urgent issues, feature discussions, and lengthy discussions.
Google Docs - When an email discussion moves into a planning phase.
Slack - Urgent issues, sharing stuff for the whole team (buzz, reading - muted channels)
Mute - Mute all of your non-essential channels.
Ultimately, it comes down to the individual and discipline. If people don't care, they will be pushing out everything on Slack interrupting everyone else. If one pauses and asks the question "Does this need to be on Slack?" then maybe we have a chance to make a more peaceful work environment.
I look forward to not being distracted anymore.
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