Using Slack

Slack is a popular workplace chatroom and instant messaging service. You can access Slack through a webpage, or through downloadable desktop and mobile apps. It’s a great way to have informal conversations without necessarily being in the same room.

Organizations set up their own shared Slack hubs, called Workspaces. Emerson College’s primary workspace is hosted at emersoncollege.slack.com. Anyone with a current Emerson email can join this workspace: this includes students, faculty, and staff. Go to emersoncollege.slack.com and sign up with your Emerson email address to get started.

Using Slack at Emerson

Slack’s online help center has a trove of useful guides covering the basics of how to use it. Meanwhile, this article addresses best practices on how we use Slack here at Emerson.

Sensitive, Confidential, and Personally Identifiable Information

Do not share sensitive files or information through Slack, even in private chats and direct messaging. Please refer to our Data Governance Policy for qualified means of transmitting sensitive, confidential, or personally identifiable information.

Profile picture

When you first sign into Slack, your user picture will be a generic portrait silhouette, which you can change. Since we use Slack to communicate between campus departments, it’s helpful to use a picture that actually looks like you. And, of course, keep it professional.

Set your status

In Slack, you can set a status to let other people in your workspace know whether you are available or away. You can customize your own status, or choose from a list of pre-set options like Out sick or In a meeting. You can even schedule a virtual Do not disturb sign for when you’re off the clock.

Notifications

Slack offers an array of notification options, from in-app sounds and badges, to email and mobile alerts. You can even customize what type of activity will notify you. Do you want to be alerted every time someone posts a message in a channel (Slack’s equivalent of a chatroom), or only if they mention your name or certain keywords? The customization options are extensive, so it’s worth exploring them!

@Mentions

Do you need to get someone’s attention? You can do this by mentioning their username. Just make sure you check their status first to ensure they’re available. If an immediate response is not required, consider sending an email instead.

Reduce the noise

Slack is an amazing tool that allows you to communicate quickly and easily with colleagues, but sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. There are built-in features that can help you reduce the noise.

Fine-tuning your notification settings, like we mentioned above, will do a lot to cut down on unnecessary disruptions by only alerting you to the things you want to know about.

You can go even further by muting entire channels so they won’t be highlighted in the sidebar every time a new message is posted. This is great for channels you don’t want to leave, but only need to check in on once in a while.

Sometimes, you need to just turn everything off for a little while so you can concentrate on a task. You can do this by turning on Do not disturb mode. It’s polite to post a quick message first, so your colleagues know you’re going to tune them out for a bit.

Etiquette

Be professional. While Slack is an informal medium, you still want to conduct yourself with at least the same amount of propriety as you would in a workplace. Also, remember that without contextual cues like tone of voice, nuanced statements might be misinterpreted. This is especially true when communicating with people with whom you do not have a long-established rapport.

Just like with any workplace conversation where a decision is made, it’s a good habit to send a follow-up email for all participants to refer to later on.

We hope this has been a helpful primer. See you on Slack!

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