Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
It’s nearing the end of 2021 and professionals are searching for more flexible work, which is empowered by asynchronous communication. Yet employees also continue to feel overwhelmed by information, which can be exacerbated by ineffective async communication.
Teams often look to new tools to solve their communication problems. In some instances, a shift to or inclusion of a new async-focused tool stack is exactly what the team needs. However, it’s critical to also evaluate how your team uses and is aligned on the use of their existing communication and collaboration tools in async-first ways.
One such tool is the Slack communication platform. Slack has unfortunately become synonymous with the creep into always-on and ASAP culture. Here are some ways that Slack has morphed into a synchronous channel:
But instead of breaking up with Slack, here are some tips to improve the relationship.
Many teams that have shifted to flexible or remote working environments have failed to shift their mindset. If you’re checking an employee status to see if they are open to receiving a message right now, great! If you’re checking an employee status to see if they're working, you’re relying on an outdated in-office mindset. Everyone from new team members to executives need to evolve to a placeless mindset.
Our Placeless Coach is the only async-first training program delivered via a Slack app. You set the timing for when you want to be coached so that it doesn’t interrupt your work flow. The coaching plan includes topics that specifically address the misuse of apps like Slack, such as “Increase Quality Work Time” and “Reduce Interruptions.”
A Communication Charter helps teams establish use and response time expectations for all communication channels. Specifically for Slack, include:
Visit your Notifications preferences section and delete notifications that are distracting. Potentially set your mobile settings to “Nothing” and Flash window to “Never.”
Dear Slack, please add more customization to your “Custom” settings for notifications.
To respect the boundaries set by your team members without delaying your own workflow, schedule your messages to be sent at times that work best for them. This is especially helpful when working across different time zones. (Tip from @jpgcc_ on Twitter: to schedule messages on mobile long-press send.)
Dear Slack, please also add the schedule message option for replies.
Sending a reply creates a new notification. Sometimes all a message needs is a confirmation of receipt which can be accomplished via an emoji reaction ✅. Or an ongoing message thread may deserve a scheduled time for a sync or blended meeting. Teams can even accomplish decision-making without creating a long Slack thread via emoji reactions, assuming the prework has been established.
Team members take cues from leadership. As professionals strive to find work-life balance, they need leaders to pave the way. One way to break out of the green circle = productive cycle, is for leaders to openly and regularly share when they take breaks. Leaders can update their status when they step away for lunch 🥗, take a break to exercise 🚴, go out for a walk 🌄, prioritize caregiving responsibilities 👪, or sign off for the night 💤.
This advice is specifically written for Slack features, but can apply to any tool where your team experiences the sync response creep.
As our CEO, Tammy Bjelland, shared with the Rosie Report, we “advise teams to be cognizant of the ways that async communication tools can quickly be warped into sync tools . . . It’s important to recognize the distinction between having the right balance of communication tools and knowing how to use them. Effectively balancing async and sync communication takes practice.”
Bjelland will also be joining the Slack Frontiers event this month. Hoping to see async communication leading the way as teams shift to a Digital HQ. Register here.
Jacqueline Zeller, CMO at Workplaceless
Motivated by her own career path working on flexible, hybrid, and fully remote teams since 2011, Zeller advocates for effective remote work that creates opportunities. She advances the Workplaceless mission by creating content and fostering connections that help professionals and companies make remote work productive, healthy, and sustainable.
Follow her on LinkedIn.