Slack on Slack: Adapting the way we work when offices need to close

Illustration of many happy teammates communicating virtually and working remotely


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Click here for quick resources on working remotely with Slack.

It will come as a surprise to no one that we’re pretty heavy users of Slack here at Slack. Very heavy users, in fact. Every day, we use Slack to connect offices across the globe, from New York to Munich to Pune to Tokyo. Our own product is at the heart of how we run the business. 

At this time, like everyone else, we’re thinking about the health of our people and their families and communities, and how that changes how we work together to help reduce the spread of infection. We, like many companies, currently have teammates working remotely who would ordinarily be in an office together. We’re also often asked how we use Slack at Slack, so this seems like a good opportunity to share what we’ve learned about how remote work shifts the way we use our product.

Here is a bundle of Slack habits and tricks—most of them small and easy to adopt—that are making teamwork work for our newly remote teammates. And, if you’re looking for even more information about remote work in Slack beyond these tips, you’ll find a full set of tips, articles and stories in our resource library

Shifting to remote work can disrupt how organizations operate. We’re here to help. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find information about webinars and one-on-one consultations to help you navigate your own transition to a remote workforce.

Every office at Slack has an announcements channel—a channel that’s set to read-only for most employees, but which admins, office managers and internal communications can use to post important information. At times like this, these channels become both vital and mandatory; information shifts away from what’s on the shared lunch menu and toward updates about office closures, advisories on travel and services, and links to support what we have in place for our employees, plus their extended families and communities. 

Learn how to manage channel posting permissions.

We use custom statuses (and associated emoji) at Slack HQ heavily already, to let people know at a glance if we’re out on vacation, in transit, in meetings, or, say, working remotely. When everyone is working remotely, of course, that last one becomes moot, and the way we use the status shifts. Our coworkers can no longer see when we’re away from our desks, so we set a custom status to let everyone know that we’ve stepped away, or that we’re offline, or on calls and may be slow to respond. Bonus: You can set these up to automatically expire—“at lunch,” for example, is one that you’d probably want to disappear after an hour. 

Learn how to set your slack status and availability.

We move meetings to channels: This is not only a great remote work practice, it’s also a great way to discover meetings that you might be able to eliminate altogether. For a weekly status meeting, we set a specific time of day by which everyone should post their status in a channel for that project. Questions can follow in thread (if they’re just for that person) or in channel (if they’re for everyone/most people). Everyone can read up on what everyone else is working on, and to top it all off, we get automatic meeting minutes. 

Related content: Twitter holds virtual all-hands meeting with global audience using Slack and Google Meet. CEO Jack Dorsey’s verdict: “worked flawlessly.” Twitter HR head tells reporter the experience is already shifting perspectives. Tweet from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on the success using Slack for global all-hands

Learn more about meetings that work (and ones that don’t) in Slack.

Direct messages also play an important role. We do most of our work in channels at Slack, but in person, we’ll often swivel our chairs around to say, “Hey, can you look at this real quick?” When we can’t work through a problem in real life, we’ll send each other our unfinished work in a direct message to get feedback and ideas (we did a lot of this while writing this blog post, in fact). We do a lot of work in Google Docs, and Slack makes it easy for us to share works in progress; we just paste the link into Slack, which will then prompt us to adjust viewing permissions if the document isn’t one they have permissions to see.  

Whiteboarding … with a permanent marker: A terrible idea in real life, but perfect when we’re remote. And using paper. Because for the inveterate visual thinker, it can be a difficult habit to break when working out of the office. We sketch out ideas on a piece of paper, then take a photo with our phones and upload it straight to a channel in Slack from there to keep conversation flowing. Over time, we’ve found that making slides to communicate an idea visually can take too much time—all that fiddling with font sizes, box widths and arrow alignments—and when we just need to get an idea across, pen and paper (and camera) do the job. 

Learn more about adding files to Slack.

Face to face, wherever you are: Communicating in writing can be difficult, particularly in more delicate or nuanced situations. Sometimes you just need to see each other’s faces and talk, out loud, with your mouths. For a quick call, you can use Slack’s built-in voice and video calling feature. We’ve also integrated many of the popular voice and video services—you can set them as the default service to use when clicking the Call icon in Slack. We’re heavy users of Zoom for larger meetings and rely heavily on the /zoom command to spin up ad hoc meetings, but you’ll find similar functionality for the other integrated providers as well. 

 Learn more about voice, video and screen sharing apps in Slack

Shared channels with vendors, partners and customers: When we can’t travel to meet in the same place, we still work together in Slack. A shared channel is exactly what it sounds like—it’s a channel that exists in both our workspace and in theirs, letting us use Slack to communicate across company boundaries. We’re using shared channels heavily right now to keep things moving with partners, customers and vendors amid our canceled travel plans. 

Check out our guide to shared channels

Finally, we like to say it with emoji. When we can’t say “thank you,” “good job” or “nice work” in person, we’ll use an emoji reaction to do it instead. Shortly after we publish this blog post, one of us will post a message in a channel to let the company know that it’s up. It will be showered with an outpouring of :tada:, :100: and a number of other congratulatory custom emoji—party parrot might make an appearance here. Everyone loves feeling recognized! An emoji reaction, or reacji, a word we keep insisting is real, is a quick and tidy way to communicate with your teammates. 

Learn more about using emoji reactions in Slack.

Again, you’ll find more tips and suggestions on the Slack for Remote Work page in our resource library. Some are small and easily implemented like the ones above. Others are meatier, geared toward helping you think about the foundations you’ll need for a distributed workforce. If you have an important remote work tip or strategy that we didn’t cover here, we’d love to hear about it—please reach out to us at feedback@slack.com.

Finally, we know that a list of tips and articles isn’t always adequate. Whether you’re using Slack for the very first time or your team is filled with experts, we’d like to help you through your unexpected transition to a distributed workforce. If you’d like our help:

  • We’ll host a series of remote work-focused webinars starting next week. These will be live sessions with Q&A opportunities. You can get more information and sign up to attend here. 
  • If you’d like some personalized help around using Slack with your suddenly remote team, we’re happy to hop on a quick call with you. Click here to schedule a time.
Working remotely in Slack: Getting Started

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Slack is the collaboration hub, where the right people are always in the loop and key information is always at their fingertips. Teamwork in Slack happens in channels — searchable conversations that keep work organized and teams better connected.