When you’re agreeing the finishing touches for a work project, or trying to organise after-work drinks, sending emails back and forth to colleagues can be time-consuming and inefficient.
At citrusHR, we’ve discovered that using Slack has helped to improve our internal communications, both professionally and socially.
How to use Slack for business
One of Slack’s main benefits is the ability for all users to create different ‘channels’. This means that you can have a group chat for each department and each project that only involves the relevant people. Channels provide a space for people to share ideas and create strategies, without having to spam the whole company with messages they don’t need.
Here’s a list of the Slack channels we’ve created at citrusHR:
- A company-wide channel for important work announcements that all employees need to know about
- A social channel for making lunch plans and arranging after-work drinks
- A channel for each department, for example Marketing, Customer Service, HR and Sales
- A channel for each new project to discuss plans and implementation
- A book club channel for updates about the monthly meeting
- An office supplies channel to let people know to get more whiteboard markers or tea bags
Members can then customise their notifications to change how many messages they receive, so if someone needs to knuckle down and get their work done then they can mute Slack temporarily.
Polls can be created within channels to make decisions quickly, which is much more efficient than receiving individual responses via email. Slack also allows integration from a huge number of applications, such as Google Suite, Dropbox and Mailchimp, helping to streamline processes and erase the need for keeping twenty tabs open at once.
The search function within Slack is a really useful tool, as results can be filtered according to different criteria such as file type or date. So, if a team member made a really good suggestion last week which you can no longer remember, you’ll be able to find it in seconds.
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Benefits of using Slack
We’ve found many advantages to using Slack in our day-to-day work lives. The main three are:
- The reason Slack was created was simply to save companies time. Emails, paper trails and even meetings can be replaced with a couple of messages fired back and forth.
- Slack helps to create a more casual atmosphere for those organisations who are moving away from a serious, ultra-corporate style of business. It encourages chatting for the purpose of getting to know other team members as well as planning work projects.
- With flexible working patterns on the rise, Slack helps everyone to feel connected, whether they’re based in offices on opposite sides of the country or working from home. No one feels isolated from the team or is left out of the communication loop.
Downsides of Slack
Of course, Slack does bring some potential problems.
The ease of pinging messages across can create a bad habit of only communicating via Slack, when all employers know that sometimes, you need to speak to someone face to face. Remind your team that if something can’t be explained well in an instant message, then to pick up the phone or walk across the office.
The other potential pitfall is that employees may take advantage of the casual nature of Slack, and start to spam channels with less and less work-related content. That’s why we decided to create a Slack policy as part of our online employee handbook. The policy covers:
- Whether Slack can be used for social purposes
- The kind of information that should not be shared over Slack, for example anything offensive, or sensitive customer information
- The process of raising concerns about Slack
- What will happen if an individual doesn’t follow the policy
Why create a Slack policy?
Due to the social nature of Slack, and with most employees having the app installed on their phones, it’s easy for the lines between work/home and professional/personal to become blurred.
We knew that if we didn’t define what would be unacceptable, we shouldn’t expect our employees to know where the line lay. We also wouldn’t have had anything in writing to draw upon if the platform were used for the wrong purpose.
Like all employers, we have a duty to protect our staff from bullying and harassment, so it felt important to acknowledge the potential for Slack to be used as a platform for workplace bullying, and formally address that this behaviour wouldn’t be tolerated and would be dealt with via our Disciplinary Procedure.
And finally, there’s data protection. We’ve always stressed to new starters that customer data must never be shared on Slack, but writing this into a policy helps to formalise it, giving us stronger grounds to challenge an employee should they repeatedly ignore this rule.
Our HR software includes an online employee handbook, which can be used to house all of your company policies, including a Slack policy should you choose to use it.
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