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MIT Libraries Staff Web

Communication & Collaboration Resources: Slack best practices


Slack is a useful messaging and communication tool that we can use in our work. These best practices will help us create an effective, inclusive, respectful and welcoming Slack experience. When possible, use the Slack application instead of the website as it generally has better performance and provides for better notifications. 

1. Updating your profile

  • Use the first and last name that you go by in the “Full Name” section of Accounts; the “Display Name” is your Kerberos user name and is not editable.
  • Updating/Adding a status (for example, “working remotely,” “on vacation,”” in a meeting,” etc.) allows others to view your status  
    • The FlexWork pilot norms designate the Outlook calendar as the primary method to use for sharing work status information.
    • Slack’s active/inactive indicators show a status based on whether users have read or sent messages in the past 30 minutes
  • Optional settings include: adding profile photos, an office phone number, skype username, and downloading the slack application on personal devices
  • See MIT Libraries Team Slack documentation, which includes optimal settings for themes, alerts, and other settings to customize Slack

2. Use Slack to...

  • Ask quick or general questions
  • Share links or brief updates
  • Have periodic virtual “standup” meetings to share progress, planned work or blockers
  • Humanize the workplace by providing opportunities for informal interactions across work locations
  • Some groups may find it helpful to communicate via Slack instead of texting for quick and timely “I’m running late” type of messages

3. Avoid using Slack to...

  • Conduct lengthy or detailed communications 
    • route detailed communications to email, ticketing system, bringing into a collaborative document-editing tool or through a meeting.
  • Create tickets for support requests or reference questions
    • for staff support email
    • for technical support related to public-facing services use the Ask US form (insert link to the form)
  • Manage to-do lists, delegate tasks, or to manage a workflow or project 
    • Try tasks management tools such as Trello, Asana or JIRA instead
  • Store and organize files/data/information for long-term use
    • Save and manage documents in accordance with your teams’ norms and practices
  • Share detailed information about library users or their requests

4. General considerations

Slack is not a system of record

  • In the near future, the retention period for messages in Slack will be changed to 90 days. Plan accordingly if you want to save something – cut and paste is the quickest and easiest option.

Decision making

  • When making decisions via Slack, make sure all affected parties are part of the conversation and have appropriate time to respond.
  • When in doubt, bring the thread to the relevant stakeholders through other methods such as conversation, meeting, email, etc

Slack usage expectations

  • Make sure you follow your department expectation for having Slack open or have the conversation with your manager if expectations are not clear.
  • Slack is not a universal substitute for email or meetings.

Shared responsibility

  • Participants in Slack threads share responsibility for ensuring that Slack threads are useful, timely, and inclusive, and should move threads to other communication methods as needed.