How we cut the slack on Slack — and bumped up team efficiency 23%

Slack is great to improve transparency in your organization — but it’s very, very easy to overload everyone with a never ending stream of interesting yet highly distracting content. At Kisi it went that far in forcing us to implement our first communications guide.

Loud Noises

At one point we calculated that 1 single post in the #general channel was costing us $110 measured in time spent by all employees to see this post and get distracted from their work. And there were a lot of posts in #general and a lot of discussions emerging in the same channel. How we felt:

After a year on Slack, content became mainly loud — yet interesting noise

Someone once said “Posting something in Slack is like standing up, screaming something in your office”. It’s useful but questionable if it has to be that real-time for everything.

That said when Slack became our internal Facebook — it consumed more of our time than it helped us — it was time to cut the slack. We thought about completely stop using Slack like other companies including the Atlantic, Uber or Vice, did before but we decided to try it with some strict rules and self content first.

Here’s some easy to implement, hard learned Slack rules we have implemented on our [free] Slack plan:

When to use Slack

- Every communication in Slack has to be real-time relevant, otherwise choose a different communications channel.

- Other communication tools like Discord, Skype or WhatsApp are being used for specific purposes so you know a call or communication coming through those has a certain meaning.

How to set up Slack Channels

- Every department like marketing, sales, tech has a private and a public channel. Private department channels are for department members exclusively and discussions should happen in those exclusively.

- Automated channel bots are handled by one person with another team member who joins the channel for backup but mutes that channel.

Configure Slack notifications

- Desktop and mobile notifications are turned off. Period.

- Busy channels are muted.

Ethics guidelines and violations

- No discussions in public channels — Stop by that person’s desk, call via Slack or direct message.

- Violators are banned 2 days from slack. We didn’t actually implement this yet and the problem remains, to stop ongoing discussions in channels with 20+ members.

Missing features in Slack that would make the experience 1000% better:

- Leaving a channel quietly. I made the great decision that I want to focus on my work and leave a channel without offending anyone. There’s a lot of peer pressure going on when leaving a channel since every leave is announced.

- Moderating public channels. Allowing themain channel owner to post in the channel and have others view only — or in general have rules on who can/’t post would tremendously help. As far as we could figure out, that’s not even a paid plan option.

- Somehow have a way to force end discussions after the 5th back-and-forth. Maybe temporary freezing a channel or temporary banning users from a channel would help. If something goes downhill in a channel, right now everyone pulls out the popcorn and doesn’t work for the next 30 mins until things have cooled down.

  • Having desktop and mobile notification turned off as company wide setting. It’s not possible at all to enforce settings for the entire teams — again not seeing this on paid plans either.

Slack is (like everything) a great tool if used right. However we feel like we used it right 20% of the time and we paid the dues. Maybe from time to time respect each other’s time and get back to good ol’ quality short emails.

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