Even before “Corona” was more than a Taco Tuesday staple, remote work was on the rise, growing as much as 400% in the last decade. In the wake of COVID-19, the numbers have skyrocketed, with 62% of U.S. employees working away from the office. With that shift, employers are looking to add platforms to their tech stacks that build morale and contribute to a strong work culture. Slack is one of the top communication platforms that has emerged in recent years, offering chatroom-style community spaces where employees can discuss everything from project goals, progress and deadlines to what they’re having for lunch, where they’re traveling, the latest thing their dog or child did, and funny online memes.
At First Page, we use Slack as a messaging tool to connect remote employees, when we have a question that needs a quick response, or when we need to have a chat about a client or project. But Slack is also a great space to blow off steam, share our experiences, and create relationships that transcend time zones. Here, we’re taking a look at the best team-building channels, apps and integrations to make Slack your digital water cooler — many of which we use and love at First Page.
Channels are the foundation of Slack, offering customized spaces to manage projects and connect teams. While you might get early ‘00s AOL vibes from the chatroom setup, Slack takes group messaging to a whole new level. If you’re new to Slack, it’s a great idea to check out a primer to help you understand naming conventions, functions and features of the program. Your channels become your digital office space, where you can create the online equivalent of conference rooms, board rooms and employee lounges. There are three types of Slack Channels:
Public: Public channels operate in two ways – they can be open to anyone in your company, or they can be open to the entire Slack community. Company-wide public channels are great for general announcements, stand-up meetings, or any information that will impact all of your employees.
Private: These channels are available to your employees by invitation only. These are useful for creating spaces where sensitive topics will be discussed, such as confidential client information. Creating private channels by workflow gives teams a dedicated space to connect and share.
Shared: At times you may need to include clients, vendors or other third-party partners in your discussions. For this, Slack Connect offers opportunities to collaborate with external companies in secure, shared channels. Connect is a brand new feature with a variety of purposes, from connecting your business with the rest of your supply chain to managing corporate subsidiaries.
The great thing about Slack channels is that they are fully customizable. You create the framework, and you set the rules. But some businesses focus on what Slack can do for their productivity, and lose sight of the ways it can keep their team connected and build relationships. Even seemingly silly channels serve a larger purpose — to create a culture that is employee-centric, and that fosters trust, loyalty and goodwill. These are some of our top suggestions for channels you can create right now to give your employees a space to laugh, vent and shine.
The Internet of (Funny) Things. One thing months of quarantine has taught us is that there is no shortage of silly memes, snort-inducing GIFs or funny-because-they’re-true comics in the vastness of the internet. It might seem counterintuitive, but giving employees a dedicated space to share non-work-related material can actually increase their productivity. Plus, it also cuts down on distractions and noise in your work channels, and helps nurture social relationships. We use #memes as a channel.
Workspace Inspo. One of the greatest Instagram trends to emerge from the last few months is the sharing of swoon-worthy home office spaces (and the often hilarious reality of what “normal” people’s workspaces look like). Whether it’s worthy of a magazine spread, or a FEMA-level disaster zone, giving your employees a channel such as #wfhlife to share their remote office space can help them feel connected.
Ask Me Anything. AMAs are a great engagement tool and create a professional but relaxed setting for connecting employees with each other, and also with company leadership. You can choose from employee volunteers or a lineup of executives, and then select a theme (e.g. “Ask me anything about our company values!” “Ask me anything about HR!”), or let participants guide the conversation in a #ama channel.
Kids Say the Darndest Things. Parenting while working remotely is a particular challenge, especially for those who’ve experienced schools and childcare facilities shuttering their doors during recent months. This gives them a space to share their challenges, offer advice, and of course, post their most adorable kid pics. (Consider also offering a pets version of this, so employees can share photos of their furry friends.) At First Page, we have #dogs where we share photos like these:
Employees Over 40. Surprisingly, this is one of the most popular channels for many companies. While Millennials make up the lion’s share of remote workers, Gen-Xers and even Boomers are joining the WFH ranks, and they face their own unique challenges as they navigate new technology and learn to operate amongst a younger workforce. So if your team is large, try out #boomers.
Song of the Day. Though everyone has their own tastes, music is a unifying force that can bring people of varying backgrounds together. It has also become a comforting coping tool during months of quarantine. Giving employees a place to share their favorite songs and artists in a #songoftheday channel helps them stay connected in a way that is personally meaningful and professionally inspiring.
One big selling point of Slack is that they also offer a treasure trove of integrated apps and gadgets that provide fun and interesting ways to connect employees and solve problems. Here’s some of our favorites...
Bonusly. This peer-to-peer recognition app allows companies to designate a monthly budget to each employee, to be dispersed in $1 or $5 increments to co-workers who deserve a thank you or a shout out.
HeyTaco! Nothing says, “Great job!” like a taco or two. This seriously silly app positions tacos as currency, and when goals are met, the guac starts flying.
Donut. Donut pairs employees who don’t often work together for a virtual meet-and-greet, offering icebreakers and introduction prompts that get the conversation flowing. Donut is also a great onboarding tool to give new employees a remote “buddy" to show them the ropes.
BirthdayBot. Keep track of employee birthdays and anniversaries with this app, which collects data from employees and sends sneaky reminders so you can remember and acknowledge important dates. BirthdayBot also allows users to send digital gift cards, and gives employees a place to create wishlists and favorites.
Disco. Help employees live your company values with Disco. This app allows you to share your team’s values, and recognize employees who put them into action in an instant. You can also track metrics and even stream them in a banner on the Slack platform so the entire company can take inspiration from their colleagues.
Polly. Social distance isn’t a social death sentence for Polly. This app allows users to participate in games, challenges and competitions with their co-workers, and also provides a platform for employee awards, surveys and feedback.
Slack channels are key for developing employee culture and connection within your company, but it also provides opportunities to build a sense of community with other remote workers around the world. Many public Slack channels are designed for specific industries or backgrounds, and can offer you and your employees an expansive and diverse network of remote connections.
WorkFrom. Designed for anyone navigating the waters of remote work, WorkFrom provides a space to share your struggles and victories as a WFH employee or digital nomad.
#CreativeTribes. The designers, writers and other creative geniuses on your team will find a refuge here, where they can connect with like minded professionals.
#FemaleFounders. Women in business have their own space here to connect, share best practices and seek input from other women leaders.
#people. Your HR staff can join this channel to meet other industry professionals to share insights, questions and advice.
LGBTQ in Technology. This diverse and inclusive public channel connects members of the LGBTQ+ community who work in the tech field, sharing their unique perspectives.
You can find many more public channels, plus step-by-step instruction for setting up a Slack program for your company, and making it work for your remote teams. We’re always looking for fun, new Slack ideas so send us what you got. And if you’re interested in working remote and joining a team like First Page, checkout our Remote Jobs page to learn about working for us and open positions.