When you work remotely or on a large team, being able to connect on the fly can make a big difference in your productivity. At Litmus, we use a popular messaging tool called Slack for all of our internal communications.
Slack is a real-time messaging tool that sorts you into various channels, like chat rooms, where you can discuss what's going on, or use various integrations to get work done faster, like with Google Drive, Twitter, or RSS. (Or giphy, if you need to express yourself.)
And though I love Slack since it accelerates collaboration and flattens our organization, there's a LOT going on during the day, and it can be hard to concentrate and stay productive (which is the whole point of Slack!)
1. Mute Channels
We're a relatively small company (~50 people) and we have more than 50 channels about everything from marketing to music. People hang out in #general, post about whatever they're thinking in #random, talk through travel plans in #travel, or discuss and debate marketing strategy in #marketing. I'm all over the place in slack between connecting with coworkers as people and as strategic partners.
The best way to control all this without FOMO (and get to Inbox 0) is to mute channels. Then, rather than completely ignore them, pop in once a week to see what's going on and read through the discussion. If it's not relevant to my day-to-day, there's no reason to let myself be distracted. This also gets rid of notifications and noises unless your name or the whole channel is mentioned, so you only see the most important messages.
To mute, click on the channel. In the top left hand corner, click the gear button and this drop down will appear:
Once it's muted, the channel will go gray in your channel list.
2. Don't Be Afraid To Go Offline
If you really have to get something done, don't be afraid to go offline. Just let people in your most relevant channels (for me, marketing) know to ping you directly or mention you by name. That way, you can exit out of the window and leave the conversation so you can put your head down and work.
It's ok to unplug a bit if you need to concentrate. Slack will be there waiting for you when you're finished. (And your colleagues will probably celebrate with you once it's done!)
3. Create Temporary Channels For Meetings (And Then Leave Them)
Sometimes, you may be discussing something in a larger channel or forum (for us, we have a #general channel the whole staff uses) and it's clear you need to talk more. Rather than clog up and cause everyone to get notifications, invite the key stakeholders into a temporary channel for a "meeting," and then archive it when finished.
To do this, click the + sign on the left hand side of your slack interface.
Then, name the channel, add a little information, and boom! You're in.
Similarly, if you find yourself still languishing in unused channels, leave them! People probably won't be restarting a discussion if there hasn't been any activity for months.
4. Use Slack Integrations
Using Slack integrations allows you to tackle everything in one place. For instance, as a social media manager, I need to monitor Twitter. We have a channel exactly for that, grabbing any mentions of Litmus, as well as our own tweets, so we can double check for any mistakes and respond in our social media tool closer to real-time. That way, I don't have to be heads-down monitoring all the time; instead, I can check Slack, where I'm already chatting about social media initiatives on the social media channel.
Some integrations, like the Twitter bot, work best in its own channel, so as not to make too much noise or interruptions in real discussions. Others work best within your channel—it all depends on what you're using the integration for.
5. Slack Isn't All Work. It's Play, Too
The beauty of Slack is it's more informal, expressive, and fun than any other tool out there for internal communications. You can use GIFs, emojis, and slang. You can talk about something completely unrelated to work. As a remote employee, it connects you to people thousands of miles away on a personal level by giving you the room (and the online space) to talk about whatever's on your mind.
With anything, there's work-life balance, and that exists with Slack, too. Since there might not be a physical water cooler or coffee pot to crowd around and get to know your colleagues, use it to make that human connection—you'll all work better that way.