The global shift to remote and hybrid work has opened doors for countless workers. But anyone navigating the nitty-gritty of the workday in the digital-first age knows that the tools we rely on to stay connected can also create challenges—especially without a solid organizational system in place.
That’s why we teamed up with Steve Dotto, one of Canada’s foremost, self-proclaimed “geeks” and the executive producer of Dotto Tech, a syndicated TV show and educational program. In partnership with Slack, Dotto Tech polled its community of clients and followers to determine the top workplace challenges and frustrations. It didn’t surprise Dotto that email topped the list.
“As we all know, email is a necessary evil,” he says. “But all communications tend to overwhelm us, and we often lose track of where we’re having the conversation.”
The solution is a digital HQ, an easy-to-use virtual space to connect teammates, partners, customers, and the IT tools and systems your organization relies on to get the job done. For Dotto Tech, Slack is that digital HQ.
Recently, Dotto shared his top 10 favorite Slack features for overcoming frustrations in the modern workplace.
1. Turn Slack into your digital HQ and break free from the email inferno
Slack helps workers keep information organized and accessible by moving conversations out of messy, cluttered email inboxes and into Slack channels. Each channel is a single place for a group to share messages, files and key decisions around a topic.
And like creating your own custom email folders, channels can be created around projects, topics and teams. When you work in Slack channels, your messages and files become searchable, so there’s no need to forward a bunch of emails to the person joining your project.
“If you’re using email for internal communications, you are losing an inordinate amount of time each and every day,” says Dotto.
2. Eliminate communication silos with Slack
Dotto’s community says that communication silos create a lot of frustration in the workplace. These scenarios probably sound familiar: colleagues and team leads have one-on-one conversations and don’t report back to the full team about decisions, or crucial information and files get stuck in someone’s inbox and aren’t shared broadly with the right stakeholders.
In the digital-first workplace, Slack channels are the antidote to communication silos because you can organize discussions with threads. With access to the same information, everyone in the channel can work in sync, and new members have full context when they join.
“With Slack, all of the conversations happen in a threaded environment, either with individuals or part of a team,” says Dotto. “And just like any other messaging app, the conversations happen in real time. It’s like the person is sitting in the cubicle next to you.”
3. Slack Huddles: A faster way get answers from the people you need most
Before the global shift to remote and hybrid work, it used to be easy to tap a coworker on the shoulder or lean over the cubicle wall to ask a question. Now tracking down teammates for quick conversations can get a bit more complicated. For the respondents in Dotto’s network, “needing quick answers from the right people” was the second most common pain point.
Slack Huddles, a lightweight and audio-first way to communicate inside a Slack channel, is a digital-first way to mimic the fast, informal discussions that took place when everyone worked from the office. When a huddle is open, any member of the channel or DM can come and go as they please, as well as share their screen. There’s also an option for live captioning. You can start a huddle to swarm incidents, host one-on-ones without the burden of video, and even take virtual group coffee breaks.
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4. Set strong work-life boundaries with customized notifications in Slack
A downside to all the gadgets, apps and communication tools that drive collaboration is the sense of an “always-on” workplace culture. “Many people may feel like they’re on call 24/7,” says Dotto. “People often think their colleagues are available for texting and messaging anytime, day or night.”
By tweaking a few settings, you can customize notifications in Slack to create better workplace boundaries. Do Not Disturb (DND) mode is an easy way to pause notifications from Slack. To temporarily snooze notifications when you need to concentrate, click the bell icon atop your channel bar or use the /dnd slash command, followed by a specific time of day or time frame. Then choose a time or set your own custom interval. You can also set automatic recurring DND hours to avoid after-hours interruptions.
If you’re burning the midnight oil and don’t want to bother your coworkers (or set the precedent that you’ll always be available after hours), you can schedule messages to send at a later time.
5. Transform the way you work with customers, contractors and other partners with Slack Connect
Just like the way you would invite an external partner to meet and work with you in your physical office, Slack Connect allows you to securely collaborate with them in your digital HQ.
Available to Enterprise Grid customers, Slack Connect provides a secure and productive way for organizations to communicate together. It lets you move all the conversations with your external partners into Slack, replacing email and fostering collaboration. Slack’s enterprise-grade security features and compliance standards, like Enterprise Key Management, extend to Slack Connect.
“Slack Connect is a game changer. You can invite anybody outside your organization to work with you in Slack, but you don’t give them keys to the whole building. You just let them into a single room to communicate when you need to.”
6. Optimize your tech stack with apps and integrations for Slack
Slack not only connects teammates, it connects the most popular workplace apps and integrations in channels, making it easier to share information. When teammates don’t have to chase down tasks and messages across multiple platforms, they have more time to focus on the work that really matters.
There are over 2,500 apps in the Slack App Directory, and one of the most crucial tools that Dotto’s teammates rely on each day is the Zoom app for Slack. This app allows colleagues to start Zoom meetings and make Zoom calls from any Slack channel, private group or direct message using the /zoom slash command.
7. Wrangle unruly files and documents in one organized place
It’s far easier to share files and documents in the digital-first workplace compared with offices from the days of yore, when colleagues turned to snail mail and fax machines. But modern technology lends plenty of opportunities for headaches when it comes to electronic document management. Version control, privacy and permissions settings and just locating the right document when you need it are common pain points.
Slack makes it easy to tame the digital document dragon. From drag-and-drop to quickly adding documents from services like Google Drive, sharing files is as much a part of Slack as typing and sending messages.
This guide to uploading and sharing files in Slack includes step-by-step directions for:
- Searching for and finding the right file
- Sharing files
- Downloading files
- Deleting files
“It’s genius that Slack allows you to search for documents by the person who sent them to you; often you can’t remember the name of a document but you know who sent it to you.”
8. Never lose track of important messages with Slack’s pin and bookmark features
Pinning messages to channels is another handy method for surfacing priorities and keeping important information from getting lost in the shuffle. Help others get up to speed by linking to essential reports, project plans, and messages.
Channel bookmarks let you save and elevate your most important information around a project, like links to dashboards, mockups, documents, files and messages. They also highlight pinned messages, letting you quickly locate key conversations with a click. These bookmarks are ideal for channels with many members in them.
9. Strengthening connection in the digital HQ with reacji
As a proud member of the baby boomer generation, Dotto fully admits that he wasn’t the world’s biggest fan of using reacji—emoji as reactions—when he began using Slack. Now they’re one of his favorite features. When one of his colleagues sends him a message that doesn’t require an in-depth response, he responds with a 👍 or 👀 to indicate that he’s received the message and is on top of it.
“I don’t have to type it out; the emoji takes over for me,” says Dotto. “In many ways, sending that ‘smiley face’ or some kind of ‘happy dancing element’ replaces eye contact in the conversations we have. It can be hard to convey subtleties of how you’re feeling, and emojis do exactly that.”
Slack also lets you create your own custom emoji, which can be used for fun or to help you express complex sentiments in seconds.
10. Your digital HQ is always within reach with the mobile app for Slack
And sometimes you just need to step away from your desk, stretch those arms and typing fingers, and go outside. Catch up on messages and threads from a sunlit café corner or park bench, or grab your headphones and join that next Slack Huddles call while enjoying a walk.
With Slack as your digital HQ, you’re empowered to work when and where it’s best for you.