How We Communicate
How We Communicate
Omar Kassim

How We Communicate

5 min read - Last updated Oct 2, 2018

Our official language is English, but that doesn’t mean that we frown upon the use of other languages. We do however expect most important communication whether it be written or spoken to be in English so that we can get and keep everyone on the same page.

Tools that we use

Slack

Slack is pretty much the lifeblood of our business. Over the years we’ve worked with email, chat and a bunch of other tools (HipChat nostalgia) and at this time believe that we’ve found a great balance by adopting Slack fairly quickly after it came out.

We strongly encourage the use of public channels over private messages. Each major team or function has their own public channels and more will be created when required or requested! We strive hard not to have any private channels as we’ve found that this creates more communication overhead and doesn’t live by our transparency value. Whilst it may seem awkward at first to discuss everything out in the open, it means that anyone can observe and participate in a conversation should they wish to do so. We’ve seen incredible ideas comes from individuals who wouldn’t necessarily have spoken up purely because they weren’t aware or weren’t given the opportunity to do so.

Be open, stay open and things will work out. Mostly.

Some popular channels that you should join include #general, #random as well as #whereabouts, which we use to keep other updated with a quick status update abut where we are or where we’re going to be.

This is our official Slack theme: #1560FA,#3E313C,#007bff,#FFFFFF,#3E313C,#ffffff,#fca400,#EB4D5C. Stick it into Slack > Preferences > Sidebar and voila we’re all colour matched. Encouraged but not enforced. Feel free to make up your own!

Slack has awesome help documentation to help get you up to speed: https://get.slack.help/hc/en-us/categories/200111606-Using-Slack

Slack Calls

If chat isn’t quite cutting it, Slack has calls that support audio, video and screen sharing built right in. Use the phone icon and ring up a team mate or alternatively kick off a call in a given channel. It’s best to organise a call by tagging whoever you may need upfront to makes sure that they’re available before you kick off a call. Value everyone’s time and don’t expect people to adhere to the needs of your schedule!

Learn more about Slack calls: https://get.slack.help/hc/en-us/articles/216771908-Make-calls-in-Slack

Once you’re done with your call, don’t forget to write up and post a brief summary of what was discussed and decided in keeping with our policy of transparency.

Slack Snooze and DND

Slack has a nice snooze button at the top of the left page that stops any notifications hitting you when turned on. Toggle it on when you’ve got downtime or need to hit deep focus mode.

Slack’s DND mode stops notifications hitting you after a particular time of the day. Our default is set to 2200 through to 0800 in your timezone. Please feel free to tweak as appropriate. If you try to reach someone when they’ve got DND turned on, Slack will alert you to ask whether you’d like to send a notification through. Please use as required, for example in the case of emergencies.

Slack Status and #whereabouts

Slack has the ability to set a status. For example you can use it to let everyone know when you’re away from your keyboard, on holiday or working remotely (unless you work remotely anyway!).

We’re not huge fans of Slack’s status function as people have a tendency to forget to update it. Ages ago (before Slack released their status feature!) we borrowed a practice from the team at Slate magazine and created a #whereabouts channel. This is a channel where anyone, anywhere can drop in a tiny update at any time of the day to update everyone else on their status. It works really well at our current size, but may get unwieldy as we grow.

Email

We primarily use our email addresses (G Suite is our provider of choice) to communicate externally with other businesses, customers and vendors.

Internal Emails

We don’t send out internal emails unless it’s absolutely necessary to do so. Internal emails are a waste of space (and time) and unnecessarily clog up people’s already busy inboxes. Looping someone into a matter or issue with an external party is absolutely fine, but if you find yourself composing something to someone that could go on Slack instead, then walk away quickly from your compose window and click over to your chat client. Trust us, it works.

Best practices for communicating over text

1. Keep your communication consistent across all text channels. I’ve seen people get too casual over chat and then communication (and by extension understanding of what is being communicated) internally and externally tends to suffer.

2. It sets a great example and precedent for the team. This is super important given that we expect more and more of the team to be remote, where your primary interaction will be over text more than anything else.

Set a high bar for yourself continue to push it upwards.

Other tools

I recently started looking into little tools that can tell you what time it is for a given person on the team:

1. There, https://there.pm is a macOS only (sorry @jobin) widget thing that sits in your menu bar. It’s a super useful, but is a touch heavy and will take you a few minutes to setup get up and running. I’ve added everyone that is remote to me (i.e. not in Dubai!). It also has an account mechanism (I didn’t sign in = it’s an anonymous ID) which I’m not a big fan of, but it does mean that if someone is already on There you can add them super easily. One click Slack support coming soon.

2. Timezone.io is a service built by an engineer at Buffer. It’s super cool and is an easy one glance view, e.g. https://timezone.io/team/buffer but it means sending out an email to each person on the team and is also publicly visible (not a bad thing!) and @engineers will lament is infrequently updated, https://github.com/timezoneio/timezoneio. If it ain’t broke, don’t mess with it? (Open source, but remains copyrighted)

I’m going to keep playing with these. If you come across anything that may be interesting, please suggest it over Slack!

[This topic remains under development]