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The ultimate Slack etiquette guide - 18 rules to live by

Slack etiquette is so important that we at Holopod believe every company should have a Slack etiquette document. 

Here is an everyday situation where Slack etiquette will really save the day:

Greg and John have been working together for quite some time now. They work in the creative design department of the same company, but Greg works at HQ while John works from another city. 

The main source of communication between Greg and John has been Slack, and it has been 6 great months of them working together. Workwise, everything is great! But something is up with John, and he is unsure. He’s tired of seeing the default user icon(avatar) on Slack.

Now, John can ask Greg to update his icon. But, would asking Greg take it too far? John feels uncomfortable about it too. 

See. That’s where having a Slack etiquette guide helps you. And if you don’t have one, we hope this one guides you well. 

Does your team need a Slack etiquette guide?

These rules can be used by anyone who uses Slack as their internal/external tool of communication. Our goal is to help you as an employee, a team manager or a leader to learn how you can best use the tool. 

These etiquette have proven to be helpful to organisations of different shapes and sizes. But at the end, you can use them as a baseline strategy for your Slack and tweak it as you move forward. Let’s get started with our 18 very important Slack rules of etiquette.

Slack etiquette rule #1 - Message someone before adding them to a new slack channel 

Adding someone to a channel without asking them is considered bad for so many reasons. One of them is, the person you add to the channel, often has to figure out on their own why they have been added to the channel. 

And, it is also impolite to take such actions (it’s like bringing people onto the stage without notice) without asking or informing someone. 

Slack etiquette rule #2 - Use Slack threads for conversations

Familiar with the situation when someone starts a Slack conversation, and everyone replies in a separate reply. Which looks something like what you can see below 

A threaded conversation on the other hand looks something like this 

Threads make it easy to separate discussions that are unrelated and make it helpful to locate and find useful information too. 

Slack etiquette rule #3 - Slack message =! Emails 

“Email killer” that’s the name Slack was introduced to the public with. 

It is supposed to be fast, efficient and less boring than an email. So, instead of writing something like this: 

“Dear @dev team,

I am pleased to announce that on Monday, 3PM EST we…”

Now, add a better tone, emojis, GIFs, and you get a better version

“Hey @devs, 

You would be thrilled to know…”

While keeping Slack messages professional is often required, you can still keep the tone that is friendly and collaborative. 

Slack etiquette rule #4 - Push more information on channels rather than keeping it in private messages

Before we get into this, it goes without saying that this etiquette excludes sensitive information. 

During these remote times (and also in general), keeping any company related non-sensitive information in private messages prevents people from learning, understanding and keeping up with the company. Let’s go through this discussion between a design lead and a junior designer: 

Tim (Design Lead): "Hey Freya,

How’s the conversion rate over the new onboarding team launched last week?”

Freya: We got about 9% lift. Although, I think we should remove onboarding step #7 from it based on our data

Tim: Done, let’s get rid of it”

While this discussion happened over private messages, John (another team member) has no idea that this has happened. And it isn’t until a few more hours (after he worked on future iterations of step #7) he gets to know that step 7 has already been dropped. 

While this is a fictional scenario, this happens more often than not. And that’s why if the same conversation happened over Slack channel (#design) as opposed to private messages John would’ve been in the loop. 

That’s why you should consider keeping as much information as you can over the slack channels.

Slack etiquette rule #5 - Message formatting

The experience of reading messages can be wildly different if everyone followed these simple rules:

  1. Messaging etiquette #1 - Don’t write a wall of text
  2. Messaging etiquette #2 - Make it skim friendly
  3. Messaging etiquette #3 - Use emojis and bullets to help people understand and better navigate your message

Slack etiquette rule #6 - Hello…


And, 5 minutes later you get the rest of the message. 

Once you ping someone, they often are hooked and wait for you to finish typing the rest of your message. 

That’s why it is a recommended practice to send a message with full details as opposed to just writing “hello” and then making someone wait while you write the rest of your messages.

Slack etiquette rule #7 - Add a Channel Description

We see #random, #fun, #fun-2, #random-2, etc commonly in our Slack teams. Especially when you are simply browsing around your organization's Slack and you need to know which channel you should ask that question. 

That’s why it is important to add a description to each channel. It not only makes it too easy to discover and use a channel, but also helps convey other information like: 

  1. If a channel is for announcements only
  2. How frequently a user should check a channel even if they have muted it 
  3. Important documents and links (e.g. strategy document, project meeting notes, etc) can easily be accessed 

Slack etiquette rule #8 - Create a channel for each project

It is a common practice to have team specific channels. And while they do serve a purpose, you still need a project specific channel. 

Let’s walk through an example to see how project specific channels help. There was a product design project that happened a little over 8 months ago. Let’s say, you want to collect some information on it. 

The project was mainly being discussed in #product channel. Seems pretty straightforward, right? But as you open and navigate the timeline to 8 months ago, you realize that there were 25+ project discussions there. 

It took you a while to find what you were really looking for. 

That, right there, is why you need project specific channels. 

If you can’t do that for small projects, consider doing it for projects that are larger or have multiple team members involved in it.

Slack etiquette rule #9 - Keep Slack channels to minimum  

Didn’t we just talk about creating channels specifically for each project?

What we meant by saying keeping the channel to minimum was that you can: 

  1. Leave channels that you don’t need
  2. Keep the number of channels to optimum (e.g. there has to be no reason for #random and #random-2 to exist)
  3. Archive project channels once they become obsolete

Organised channels, specific to their clearly described purpose, lead to a high performance Slack culture.

Slack etiquette rule #10 - Push notifications 

There are different types of push notifications: 

  1. Channel notifications 
  2. Direct messages notifications 
  3. Channel mentions 
  4. Team mentions (e.g. @devs @ops vs @here or @channel)

@Channel notifications - Do it only if you wish to notify all channel members, regardless of whether they are online or not. 

@here notifications - Use them to notify only the online users of the channel. 

Team mentions - They are best when you want to alert a team for a specific issue. For example, if you need urgent dev help, tagging @dev in your Slack post would help get attention from the right team members.

Direct message notifications are pretty self explanatory so we won’t get into them. 

Slack etiquette rule #11 - Slack shouldn’t be all work no play

If you are a manager, CEO or anyone in a leadership role - make sure you allow your team to use Slack for more than work. You will be prepping for a cultural failure if your Slack policies don’t allow your team to message about anything but work.

Slack etiquette rule #12 - Review and Edit your messages before sending

Make sure you review and edit a message before sending to avoid sending a message that has partial information, typos or poor formatting. Imagine a message you see on #design that says

“Hey, can someone invite me to invasion…?”

“Invasion” hmm...obviously a typo, expecting an edit now. 

(Edited at 12:33 PM) “Hey, can someone invite me to Invision?”

Okay. You got it now. This person wants an invitation to Invision. You stopped what you were doing and sent an invitation to Invision. 

But just as you are about to post a response, you see another edit. 

(Edited at 12:34 PM) “Hey, can someone invite me to Invision urgently? Also send me project plan for Fedora”

Imagine if there was a third edit, asking for another something! 

You see how frustrating it could be to have messages changed, edited and modified? 

That’s why it is considered good etiquette to review your entire message before sending it.

Slack etiquette rule #13 - After work hours etiquette

With the exception of being available during emergencies, don’t make it a habit. 

If you are an employee: 

  1. Turn off notifications after work hours 
  2. Use slack only on your work devices 

If you are a manager, CEO or a leader:

  1. Avoid writing to your team after working hours
  2. Don’t assume for your employees to be available outside of their working hours if it isn’t an emergency

While writing Slack etiquette for your company, make sure you strictly follow those guidelines. 

At Holopod we make this very easy. You can simply go to our free Web or Mac app, and add the hours that you would be working. 

Once you add your work hours, Holopod automatically updates your Slack status and your team members know when you would be available. 

Slack etiquette rule #14 - Team meeting notes should go into channels 

Slack is a modern day work operating system now. It is natural for people to look for information and refer to project and team channels to keep up with action items. Make sure you drop the following meeting notes after every important meeting: 

  1. Decisions made and things that were discussed 
  2. Next steps 

Also, at the end of the meeting notes, it is worth sharing any further questions that were left unanswered in the meeting or asking for suggestions that couldn’t be heard at the meeting. 

Slack etiquette rule #15 - Your Calendar and Slack should be talking

A very important part of being highly efficient with Slack is to make sure everyone in your team (or organisation) can know whether you are working, are out for a coffee or are simply on a call.

But if it is too much to manage slack status, you can do it automatically too.


Slack etiquette rule #16 - Before onboarding someone on Slack, send them an onboarding email 

We all have this tendency to onboard someone directly over slack without guiding them on what to do once they join. But consider this, what if the person you’re onboarding is a consultant or a contractor? Or, what if you are a 500+ member organization? 

Things quickly become complicated if onboarding is taken lightly. That’s why a good onboarding Slack etiquette would be to ensure that whenever you are about to onboard someone over Slack, provide them with a handbook that walks them though your Slack etiquette, important channel related information and other policies.

Slack etiquette rule #17 - Whether you should post that message or not?

Push notifications can be a big distraction. So you need to make sure that when you post something, you follow the flowchart below:  

Slack etiquette rule #18 - Lay down your rules 

Once you onboard your employees/teams on Slack and lay down all Slack best practices and etiquette you need to start moving away from general advice and customise your Slack etiquette handbook.

Look at the following to help guide your decisions: 

  1. What helps bring high productivity to your team
  2. Does it foster collaboration?
  3. Does it help with high visibility? 
  4. Ultimately, do you see your culture foster with those guidelines in place? 

And that’s it!

Those are some general Slack rules of etiquette that you should follow to foster a productive, collaborative and growth focused Slack environment.