How to use internal chats to boost your productivity

May 04, 2020

5 mins

How to use internal chats to boost your productivity
Ivo Cabral

Periodista freelance

Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts are just some of the names that have become part of the daily lives of many employees. These messaging services offer effective ways to communicate that more closely resemble the way we converse naturally than emails do. This is why they are replacing long chains of company emails. What are they? How can they help us to work more effectively? What effect do they have on our productivity?

Of all the productivity tools introduced in recent years, internal chat applications have been among the most successful. Slack has more than 10 million regular users around the world and its success has led technology giants to develop their own internal chat apps. Microsoft has Teams, which is increasingly popular, and Google has developed Hangouts Chat.

These systems are particularly appropriate for teams that work remotely or those who work from home occasionally and wish to carry on with business as usual even if teleworking, as is happening during the pandemic.

These systems are particularly appropriate for teams that work remotely or those who work from home occasionally and wish to carry on with business as usual even if teleworking, as is happening during the pandemic.

Internal chats: work better and faster

Why are these applications becoming so popular? Perhaps their greatest advantage is that they make communicating with coworkers more intuitive. It feels closer to the way we communicate with friends and family. Sending a message on Slack is not very different from sending one on WhatsApp. You can even use the same emojis. These apps offer a number of advantages compared to email, which is still the preferred communication channel in many companies.

Organisation by subject

One of the main innovations of internal chats is the thematic channels. This simple, new way of organizing the flow of communication allows users to divide conversations by topic.

How does this work in practice? A company may have a list of channels, organized by lines of activity, such as business development, logistics, or design. The divisions do not have to be the same as the company’s departments or divisions. Specific channels can be created for specific topics**, such as an event or the preparations for a proposal. You can create channels for whatever you want: The sky’s the limit!

In addition, in each channel you can include different people. So those who do not work directly on a topic do not have to receive information that does not concern them. Say goodbye to chains of emails with dozens of people copied in on each message.

An operations center

Despite the name, these chat apps aren’t just for talking. They can also be used to make video calls, to send links so that several people can edit documents simultaneously, or to coordinate agendas.

In reality, they are true communication switchboards that can integrate many of the other digital tools present in 21st-century offices. Through Slack or Microsoft Teams, you can survey the members of the team, assign tasks from Trello or send links to synchronize agendas from Doodle, an online calendar. Many companies, such as Microsoft, have developed new apps that work with other ones. Microsoft Teams works neatly with Outlook 365, for example.

Another advantage of these systems is that they prevent us from cluttering up our own email accounts with messages to and from our coworkers, thus leaving room for external communication.

A space for conversation

Slack, Teams, or Hangouts don’t have to be used just for serious things. They can also be used to create groups of trusted people or channels in which you can comment on day-to-day matters or make arrangements to go out to eat with your coworkers. This can help to improve relationships and the atmosphere at work.

Creating channels for less serious or even personal conversations has another advantage over email. It is much easier to separate important messages from those that are not as key. With email, however, messages all come through the same channel—often with on-screen notifications. Goodbye, useless distractions.

Of course, you should think twice before talking about matters that are too personal in the channels provided by your company. Remember that, under certain circumstances, the company may read the messages you send, if it is believed that you are not using its communication channels or resources appropriately.

Instant chronological review

Does this sound familiar? You return to the office after two weeks’ holiday and spend a whole day checking emails one by one but dealing with completely different topics. If your team uses Slack or Teams, this should be almost a thing of the past. Since the conversations are organized by topic, you can get up to date just by reviewing what has been said on each channel.

This is also great for new employees or anyone joining a project. It means that they can easily have access to all relevant information exchanges and documents.

Immediate access to information, wherever you are

Most of these internal chat services have their own mobile apps. They also usually have good notification systems that allow you to be aware of the topics you are working on at any given time. It is as easy to communicate using Slack or Teams from a computer, as from a smartphone or a tablet. And it is just as intuitive, and even fun, as when you chat on WhatsApp or any other messaging app.

But be careful—they can also be a source of distraction

These apps can make our working lives easier and more effective. If we don’t use them well, however, they can have the opposite effect. Since it is so easy to communicate this way, we tend to write more than we would in an email. The consequence: notifications, notifications, and more notifications. (This can be our biggest problem when we need to focus on a task). To combat this, we recommend taking these steps:

  • Try not to send too many messages on serious channels. As with emails, it is better to send the information in a structured way to avoid colleagues receiving lots of notifications.
  • Mute less urgent channels and conversations for fewer notifications.
  • Set a time limit to disconnect. These apps allow you to set a schedule in “do not disturb” mode. Best of all, you won’t miss a message. If a colleague has something really urgent to tell you, they can ask for a notification to arrive at any time.
  • Set clear rules for the use of these apps. In teams that have people who don’t get along well with technology, using Slack or Teams could result in duplication if some members use them and others don’t. Some people are used to sending emails or sharing files through the company’s internal server. Before switching to these apps, it is important that the whole team agree on which app to use, what it will be for, and how it will be used.

Now that the word “productivity” is on everyone’s lips, more and more companies are starting to use applications such as Slack, Teams, or Hangout Chats to improve their effectiveness. Each team is unique, however, with different users and preferences.

Although these apps can be of great help, they are not a universal solution. They are especially useful for small teams, or as a complementary tool to make working from home easier. The challenge is to find the ones that best suit your needs. So we encourage you to try them out, if you don’t already use them. You have nothing to lose, but you may see gains in efficiency and flexibility!

Translated by Sunita Maharaj-Landaeta

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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