May 5, 2017
As an organization with four offices in three countries, working with international colleagues can be both rewarding and challenging. As a highly collaborative team, it's exciting to be able to work closely with someone half a world away. To know that there are people in San Mateo, Toronto, Zhengzhou and Beijing working towards a common goal in near real time still never ceases to amaze me (it sometimes feels like we're in Minority Report, only with less Tom Cruise).
For the same reasons remote collaboration is exciting, it can also be challenging. Things like time zones and differing national holidays can affect projects in ways that can make a deadline seem like a moving target. It's also hard to always rely on telecommunication to come to a consensus on some minute detail of a project. The hallway conversation where you can figure something out in a minute may not be possible when working with someone thousands of miles away.
There is one tool however that helps us navigate the challenges of international collaboration - Slack, which really allows us to maximize the possibilities of team collaboration. At first it seemed like an innocuous messaging tool. But after a few years of it being our primary communication tool, we've found ways to really make it tick. We've picked up some good tips and tricks along the way, and today we're going to look at them. Here are our top 3 tips for maximizing Slack for your international offices.
Use Project Channels
Every organization that uses Slack will no doubt have team Slack channels that mirror their corporate structure. Whether Engineering, Marketing, HR or Customer Service, these Slack channels are crucial to keeping individual members up to date on the goings-on within their team.
One trick that's helped us a lot at Dynadot is creating separate project channels that act as an online surrogate for integrated project teams. While a question to engineering about a certain update on a project might yield the response needed, it might not get to the other members on the project. Keeping a flow of updates in project channels is as close as you'll get to meeting minutes in Slack, and that'll help ensure that even those employees in the Arctic remote office are up to date on that new site build project.
Create International Channels
There will always be a #general channel within Slack where everyone can talk but sometimes things can get a little crowded in there. That's why at Dynadot we maintain separate regional Slack channels.
Every office of an international organization will have its own office culture, announcements and procedures. Creating international channels will not only keep updates relevant to the people who need to see them, but it can also help foster a community culture amongst even the most remote offices.
Get Buy-in on Leaving Overnight Messages
This is probably the most controversial tip. If used properly however, you'll really be able to maximize your working relationship with employees half a world away. I have colleagues that who timezone is a full 12 hours ahead, and more often than not when I'm at the peak of my workday they are already asleep. Sometimes I have no choice but to leave Slack messages in the middle of the night for my colleague to see in the morning when I'm then asleep. It's not an ideal working scenario, and you hope that they have silent on their phone for notifications while they sleep, but sometimes it's the only way to ensure a project keeps moving forward.
Some people may be more receptive than others when it comes to getting pinged outside of work, so it's crucial to feel each other out and see what works best for the team. Sometimes a simple understanding in that I'm leaving a note for you to get to in the morning can help make the after hours pings seem less oppressive. After all, it might be a better alternative to holding Skype meetings where each person is meeting either before the work day or after it.
Bonus Tip – Slack Outside the Workplace
My partner and I use Slack in our personal lives all the time. We have a channel for such things as finances and groceries. It's proved to be a lifesaver at managing the day to day. Slack doesn't officially endorse personal use of their app, but it's worked wonders for us!