Stop your coworkers from bothering you (in Slack)

Slack opens up an organization. It breaks down communication silos and makes employees accessible. 84% of organizations that switch to Slack see an increase in transparency. However, that transparency isn’t always a blessing.

Slack organizes all of a team’s conversations and opens them up to the rest of an organization. This can fall apart when interlopers from outside a team interrupt conversations to ask questions.

The conversations a team has internally aren’t like the conversations they have with external stakeholders. Combining the two into one channel can not only be noisy, but also distracting for the members of a team that don’t need to manage stakeholders. When poorly structured, Slack can take team members that traditionally focused on implementation and put them at the mercy of stakeholders.

One solution is to create a second “on-call” or “external” channel.

Teams that embrace this strategy create two channels. One for implementation and the other for managing stakeholders. In the second channel, stakeholders can get prompt answers to questions without interrupting team member’s day-to-day implementation conversations.

Creating a channel for stakeholders can have major benefits. Unlike a DM or email conversation with a team manager, in a public channel, outsiders can self help. For managers, Slack makes it easy to loop in the member of the team that can answer a question with a quick mention.

Beyond giving support to stakeholders, an “on-call” channel is a great place to share status updates on the progress of the projects in progress.

As an added bonus, when teams give updates and support stakeholders in a public channel, everything you share is automatically indexed as documentation in Slack search. Suddenly, your project’s documentation is easily accessible without any extra work. Slack keeps the same conversation from happening repeatedly.

For members of a team focused on the implementation work, creating two channels prevents distractions from outsiders. Unless, of course, the implementers want to help. In some very egalitarian teams, we’ve seen “on-call schedules” where the team decides who is going to answer questions on which days to keep everyone focused.

It can be tempting to set your team and project channels to private and your on-call channel to public. However, Many of the advantages teams see after deploying Slack come from the messages posted to public channels. Private messages are a necessary part of corporate communications, but they don’t deliver on Slack’s promise of a transparent, open office.

Teams with a public internal and external channel end up creating documentation for their projects and keeping discussions organized.

Does your team use a secondary channel to field questions and requests from stakeholders? We’d love to hear how it’s working out. Drop a reaction in this Medium article with your feedback.

This post is a part of a series on getting the most out of Slack. Next week, we’ll share eight channels your organization needs to create (if you haven’t already). If you’d like to hear more, follow us on Medium or subscribe to our email newsletter.