Nine guidelines to stay productive with group chat

The odds are that you’re using some group chat at work. If it’s called Slack, Teams, WhatsApp, or Skype makes no difference. If you don’t manage it properly, it will wreak havoc on your productivity. These are nine guidelines that I use to turn group chat from a nuisance to a valuable tool.

1. Manage your DND settings

People must communicate with each other even when the recipient is not around. When you take responsibility for your focus, everybody else can communicate as needed.

2. Set you notifications preferences

Most chat software allows you to set pretty detailed preferences for notifications. Make sure that you don’t get disturbed by unnecessary notifications and that you don’t miss important messages. Set the default to a standard that fits you, and make use of the mute channel setting as appropriate.

3. Use public channels

When you communicate in public channels, you foster transparency and inclusion. You also increase the chance of getting good and relevant feedback.

4. Signal your status

Use the status and profile features to let the team know what’s going on. It’s also a good idea to have a separate channel for status updates.

5. Follow the async communication principles

  1. Provide enough information to understand context
  2. Provide enough information to cover most follow-up questions
  3. Provide all the resources needed
  4. Be clear with what you need
  5. Be clear with your deadline

Read more in Five principles for great asynchronous communication.

6. Use threads

For discussions about a particular topic, use the threads feature. That leaves the main channel free from noise. If you need more room, create a shared document or hop on a call (remember to document it).

7. Don’t check it all the time

Having unread messages doesn’t mean that you’re behind on something. Let other people get on with their work while you get on with yours. Come back to check your messages when you’re out of your focus zone.

8. Respond by the end of your day

Unless a specific deadline is set on a message, it’s reasonable to expect that people respond by the end of their working day.

Make sure that you make it a habit to check off any important messages before you leave for the day.

9. Use the phone for emergencies

If you need to get a hold of someone for an emergency, use the phone. Calling people up and speaking to them directly is the best way to make sure that they give attention to your need. Don’t forget to transfer the information back to somewhere others can access it.