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MIT Libraries Staff Web

Internal Communications Resources: Slack Norms and Guidelines

Introduction

Slack's primary purpose is a tool for communication and collaboration for work purposes. The Libraries Slack workspace also has channels for non-work conversations which contribute to a sense of community for staff that includes many hybrid and fully-remote employees. On all Libraries Slack channels, staff have a responsibility to maintain a positive, professional, and supportive environment, free of discrimination and harassment, and respectful of diverse viewpoints. 

These are general guidelines to help simplify communication within the Libraries. People should clarify individual expectations with their managers and teams.

Availability and Expectations

Team/Department Expectations

  • Department heads should communicate with their teams about usage expectations for Slack
  • Cross-departmental teams should discuss their primary communication modes at least once

Shared responsibility

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

Slack usage expectations

  • Understand that not everyone’s working hours align with your own. Consider scheduled sends if you’re reaching out outside of typical work hours.
  • Make sure you follow your department expectation for having Slack open or have the conversation with your manager if expectations are not clear. Managers should make expectations clear to new staff during onboarding.
  • Slack is not a universal substitute for email or meetings.

Update/Add a status (for example, “working remotely,” “on vacation,” etc.) to allow others to view your general location/status each day  

  • Please note: the FlexWork 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 10 minutes

Slack should be checked at least once a day

  • In order to keep conversation moving, it is best to check Slack and respond to direct messages at least once a day. 
  • Consider creating custom notifications if you do not regularly open Slack

1. Updating your profile

  • Refer to Slack’s New User Guide for an introduction to Slack.
  • Use the first and last name that you go by in the “Full Name” section of your Profile; the “Display Name” is your Kerberos user name as the default.
    • You can also add your job title, your pronouns and your name pronunciation.
    • Users can integrate Slack with their Outlook calendar to help keep their status up to date (e.g. working remotely, in a meeting, out sick, on campus, on vacation)
  • Optional settings include: adding profile photos, an office phone number, and downloading the Slack application on personal devices
    • It is not expected that staff will use their personal devices for work needs and they are not expected to check their messages outside of their scheduled work hours.

2. Use Slack to...

  • Ask quick or general questions
  • Share links or brief updates
    • Please note Slack channels have a 90-day retention policy. Links that people may need to refer to later should be shared via email or on a project management tool.
  • Do quick group brainstorming
  • Have periodic virtual “standup” meetings to share progress, planned work or blockers
  • Humanize the workplace by providing opportunities for informal interactions across work locations
  • Share 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, a ticketing system, a collaborative document-editing tool or through a meeting.
  • Have emotionally charged conversations or discussing performance issues
  • Create tickets for support requests or user reference questions
  • 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 on Google Workspace, OneDrive, or elsewhere in accordance with your teams’ norms and practices
  • Share detailed information about library users or their requests
  • Make HR requests; they should be sent to lib-hr@mit.edu

4. General considerations

  • Slack is not a system of record
    • The channel conversations and file retention period in Slack is 90 days. 
    • It is not recommended to use Slack for decision making because it is not a system of record. Using email is the best choice for communicating decisions, and most decisions should be logged and archived on an intranet for institutional memory.
  • 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
  • High-frequency channels
    • There are a number of high-frequency channels in the MIT Libraries Slack, including channels for non-work conversation
      • Always check to make sure you’re in the right channel for what you are posting
      • Make sure you understand the purpose of the channel before you post
    • Users should use threaded conversations for ease in navigating conversation-heavy channels and to help organize high-frequency channels
  • Nothing is confidential
    • A basic guideline is to assume that others will see what you write.

5. Accessibility Recommendations

In order to make Slack more accessible, the Libraries staff should consider some of the below recommendations. 

  • Add alt-text to images and GIFs
  • Use linked text for URLs to clarify where the link will take somebody