How to Leverage Slack for Remote Team Success

Remote teams, like all teams, need tools and processes for how they communicate and work together. However, for a remote team, these processes are even more critical since it is so easy for team members to become disconnected from their teammates.

Similarly, when teams work together in a single location, a lot of information is passed between team members through passive communication. A person might hear about a project or initiative through overhearing a conversation, or during a staff meeting. These types of communication can be translated to a remote team, but require careful planning and consideration.

Channels as the Primary Communication Venue

When people are new to a communication tool like Slack they will often find direct messages (DMs) to be the most natural communication flow. This is likely because it feels very similar to text messaging and other communication mediums that they are used to.

One of the most important lessons for a remote team (and generally any team using Slack) is that channels should be the primary venue for all communication. Channels allow for passive participation from other teammates and allow people to jump into the conversation as it is relevant to them.

The number one challenge most remote teams face is the dissemination of communication and setting up channels as the primary venue for all communications will go a long way toward resolving that.

Create Structure for your Channels

With channels set up as the primary communication tool for your team, it is important that you also set up some structure for how you manage channels. If the team creates new channels for every conversation or allows conversations to occur in the wrong channel this can undo all of the hard work to ensure communication transparency.

At Selland Technologies we have created a few different guidelines for our channels to help create organization from all of this communication:

Use Channel Prefixes to Structure Channels

We use a variety of channel prefixes to ensure that every channel is categorized into a few different buckets. For example, we use the proj- prefix for channels dedicated to a specific project while we will use the team- prefix for a channel intended to support a team. We also use the temp- prefix for any channel that we create for a short-term conversation.

Use Threads to Compartmentalize Conversation

Often someone will know that their message will be the start of a much longer conversation. Suggesting that the ensuing conversation happens as a thread on that comment not only makes it easier for other people to follow the overall channel conversation but also helps people locate a deeper conversation when necessary.

Post Meeting Notes to Channels

While slack is often going to be the primary communication channel for much of the team, there is no replacement for in-person meetings, phone calls and virtual meetings. Additionally, quite often the most important decisions for a team will be made in these meetings and phone calls. Our team makes a practice of posting the meeting notes and assets (presentations, reports, etc.) into the relevant channel in order to ensure all team members can follow along regardless of if they were able to attend the meeting.

Communication is Always Evolving

The only constant in life is change, and while these may be a good starting point for your team, every team will find their own set of processes and tools that work best for them. We constantly change the techniques we use to manage communication, and we even get them wrong from time to time. That being said, by committing to a long-term evolutionary approach, we have been able to consistently improve communication, and by extension, team productivity over the past several years. Try out a couple of the guidelines above with your team and see if they work for you, or see if you can use them as inspiration to come up with something that works even better for your team.

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