Those bolded channels that tease, the unexpected wit flying off your teammates’ fingers—as Slack quietly hums away on our screens, many people feel more themselves on the other side.

Tools like Slack make work more efficient and enjoyable, freeing us up to spend time on the things that matter. There will, however, always be situations where you have to meet teammates face-to-face— and not emoji-to-emoji.

But how do you know what those are?

To help you decipher what’s a Slack-able vs. un-Slack-able moment, we’ve put together this simple guide.

Slack when you want to…

Give kudos

Celebrating achievements is an important way to make your team feel appreciated. Slack is public and in real-time, so giving people props when something momentous happens will let everyone know you value their contributions.

Take your gushing compliment to the next level by typing “/giphy winning” after your kind words—trust us.

Ask a quick question

If you need a simple answer that you know someone on your team can provide—a status update, reminder, or offhand data point—Slack is your best bet. It can also be a good way to put out feelers to see who on the team can get you the information you need.

Delegate assignments

When you’re looking for someone to take on a task, use Slack to quickly get people’s attention. You can either reach out to one person through a direct message, or you can put a callout to the whole team through a group channel to figure out who has availability.

If you’re posting in a channel, keep pertinent messages afloat by pinning them, which will cause the item to appear in the information panel.

Slack etiquette varies by team, but typically if you’re looking to connect with only one person, default to sending them a private message instead of alerting the whole group.

Lighten up the day

Use Slack to sprinkle a little bit of humor throughout the day by designing custom emojis that look like the people on your team, programming your Slackbot to say funny quips, and holding meme contests when work is on the lighter side.

Pro tip: if people get overwhelmed by all the images and GIFs, they can simply type “/collapse” to make them disappear.

Keep the team updated on a project

After you’ve launched a project, set up a dedicated Slack channel so everyone can stay on top of what’s going on.

You can either make it private if the information is sensitive, or you can open it up so anyone in the company can pop in and see what’s happening. Using Slack for a project can help you send the team quick updates without sucking up too much time.

Think twice about using Slack when you want to…

Kick off a project

No matter how amazing Slack is, it’s no replacement for the magic that happens when you first get people together in a room to talk through processes and build on concepts collaboratively. Meeting in person will also help you see who is the right fit for a project and who else needs to be pulled in.

So if you’re planning on launching a project, start it the right way by investing in a real-life meeting.

Have a one-on-one meeting

Slack will never replace regular check-ins with your teammates, especially when it’s your direct report or manager.

It can be really hard to get a good read on people through a messaging app because you can’t pick up on nonverbal (non-emoji) cues. Getting an accurate understanding of someone’s feelings still requires checking in the old-fashioned way.

Involve only a few people

It’s easy to fall into the Slack vortex, but sometimes all you need is the input from a few key people. If that’s the case, take it off Slack, or create a private group so you can chat specifically with the people who need to be a part of the discussion.

Get in touch with someone who’s OOO

Slack is much more than a work tool—it’s also a social tool. Therefore, it can be really hard not to constantly check your phone when Slack is blowing up.

If someone on the team is on vacation, consider leaving them out of the conversation so they won’t be tempted to engage. You can also advise folks to change their notification settings when they’re gone, or just have them delete the app entirely (and re-download it when they’re back in the office).

Setting up this boundary early on will forge a culture of respect for the times people need to unplug.

Of course, each team’s Slack usage will vary depending on their unique culture—some places will be all Slack shenanigans all the time, while others might be a bit more toned down. Either way, it’s always helpful to be clear about how you expect your teammates to use the tool to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Slack works best when it’s personalized and employed at the right time, so be mindful of when you use it to create the best experience possible. And what does the best Slack experience look like? A workplace where collaboration is constant and there are always several people typing at a time.

Kira Deutch Kira Deutch is a former Gusto editor. She has a background in publishing and content marketing for startups.
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