Don't slack on Slack: Limiting distractions and chatter at work

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Q. How can you make the best use of Slack at work without it becoming a distraction or platform for unnecessary chatter?

1. Use Do Not Disturb

Once Slack becomes the hub of your team's communication, you may find that the constant notifications can paradoxically harm your team's productivity due to their interruptive nature. When employees need to focus, encourage them to use the Do Not Disturb or Snooze features to avoid getting interrupted by non-urgent messages. -- Roger Lee, Captain401

2. Set clear boundaries

We like to only create channels that help instill a focus on work and efficiency, and don't encourage our employees to create Slack channels geared towards personal conversations or events outside work. We set boundaries and let people know that they can talk about that kind of stuff at work, but that just isn't what Slack is for. -- John Hall, Influence & Co.

3. Be reactive, not proactive

There are rare times in the business world where it makes sense to be reactive instead of proactive. With applications like Slack, being a big brother-esque figure or monitoring the channel breeds resentment. You can see who is the most talkative person on the channel, so if it doesn't make sense for them to be the most chatty out of the bunch, treat them like an adult and ask them to reel it in. -- Bryce Welker, Crush The CPA Exam

4. Disable desktop notifications

The trouble with Slack is that there isn't a good way to differentiate "things I need to look at now" versus "things I need to look at later." Set an expectation for your team that you'll look at Slack at pre-determined times during the day. If they need you between those times, they should come to your office or shoot you an email. -- John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

5. Install helpful Slack bots

Slack has a very robust directory of bot plugins to help with everything from to-do lists to feedback polls to group food ordering at https://slack.com/apps. These bots improve efficiencies and help coordinate conversations in Slack. -- Adelyn Zhou, TOPBOTS

6. Monitor employee Slack messages

There is an option in the Plus version of Slack that will allow employers to view company Slack messages. If employees understand their messages are reviewed, they will stop sending them over Slack. However, that won't prevent them from using Whats-app or the slew of other options on their mobile device. -- Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

7. Use Slack for daily check-ins

My mostly remote team and I use Slack daily to share one goal that we hope to accomplish for the day. At the end of the day, we share whether we accomplished that goal and if not, what obstacle we encountered. During times we need to focus, we let others know we’ll be unavailable. Using Slack in this way helps my team to feel connected and setting good boundaries makes the tool less distracting. -- Mark Krassner, Expectful

8. Make your messages specific, relevant and targeted

We use very specific channels to facilitate productive conversations. We tag relevant people who need to see certain information or questions. We encourage team members to ask targeted questions, which cuts down on unnecessary chatter. We also integrate with Jell, allowing team members to report to-do lists and be held accountable. -- Matt Hunckler, Powderkeg

9. Open the Activity pane

If you open the Activity pane, you'll get all relevant mentions without all of the chatter so you can respond effectively. There are also a variety of keyboard shortcuts you can take advantage of to quickly use this tool as well. -- Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

10. Limit your conversation length

Self-discipline is important in terms of setting limits on conversations on Slack. Make time to catch up and connect, but know that anything longer than 15 minutes is reducing productivity. Even set yourself to inactive if necessary to make sure it doesn't distract you. -- Murray Newlands, Sighted

11. Create a separate "fun" channel

A great way to avoid distractions on Slack is to divide your channels up. By dividing your work channels, you’ll be able to create a "fun" channel that can be used for unnecessary chatter and anything unrelated to work. Having fun at work is essential, but it's also important to prioritize, not get too distracted, and stay efficient. -- Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

12. Don't set expectations of immediate responses

Slack is a double-edged sword. It facilitates communication and collaboration, but can be too much of a good thing. One way of dealing with distraction is to make sure everyone — including executives — understands that there’s no obligation to respond immediately to messages. If employees are focused on their work, they shouldn’t feel the need to stop what they’re doing and take part in a chat. -- Justin Blanchard, ServerMania Inc.

13. Lead by example

From the beginning, let your team know that you use Slack for its efficiency. Don't participate in chatter or small talk; go straight to the point and talk efficiently. Other users will start realizing how you use Slack and won't distract you or encourage you to participate in chatter. So as to not appear rude, use emojis to let others know you are not angry, just efficient. -- Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

14. Establish rules and purposes for each channel

Slack is a very efficient online collaboration app that can best be utilized especially if you set rules and purpose for each channel. This will drive the focus of conversations to the purpose of the channel and will prevent unnecessary dialogues. It will also help to keep the rules firm and set reminders from time to time so new members are advised of the channel's purpose. -- Daisy Jing, Banish

15. Stay on-topic and ignore what you can

Promote a company culture that respects a channel’s topic. Then, unsubscribe from channels that aren't core to your job function. -- Tim Chaves, ZipBooks

16. Don't try to multitask with Slack

Multitasking can kill productivity. Focus on Slack when you need to. Otherwise, don’t let it interrupt you. Many of us are so used to having texts and social media notifications interrupt us. Perhaps try turning those off for a week so you get out of the habit of checking every time something new pops up. Then you won't exhibit the same behavior on Slack. -- Karl Kangur, MRR Media