Make Chat-Based Collaboration Apps Work for You

The use of chat-based collaboration apps like Slack, Skype for Business, and Microsoft Teams has soared this spring. Millions of telecommuters across North America are logging on, interacting in real-time, and managing multiple workspaces—not to mention learning new platforms as they go.

At CMIT Solutions, we’ve been helping clients stay productive while working remotely for decades. Now, we could all use a little extra attention to unlock the full potential of chat-based collaboration apps as we rethink the way we perform our day-to-day job duties. Below are our 10 favorite strategies for staying connected and getting the most out of chat-based collaboration apps.

Most apps provide different kinds of notifications for different kinds of messages. But if you want to chat directly with someone and ensure they see your message, type the @ symbol and their name. In Slack, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, and other common collaboration apps, this will send them a direct notification that they’ve been pinged.

Chat-based collaboration apps love to keep you within their ecosystem as much as possible. Skype for Business allows one-touch dialing to turn an instant message session into an audio or video call and enhanced meeting tools to continue chatting during a scheduled online meeting. Other apps allow users to enable multiple levels of connectivity as well. The goal is to avoid toggling between multiple windows or platforms so you can stay on track during a busy day. Within apps that connect with your calendar, like Skype for Business does with Outlook, your status will automatically be updated based on free, busy, and out-of-the-office settings. Slack allows users to type a forward slash ( / ) followed by a word like “away” (to denote you’re not available) or a string of characters like “dnd” (do not disturb).

Need a reminder to come back to a particular piece of information? Don’t want to lose that important login information or agenda item for a future meeting? All collaborative apps allow you to message yourself to keep essential details in one place. Slack also allows you to create a custom to-do list simply by starring messages for future follow-up.

The goal of chat-based collaboration apps is to stay in constant contact. But receiving an audio ping, a smartphone alert, and an email notification every time someone types a new message in your workspace isn’t always conducive to getting work done. Take control of your notifications by clicking the settings wheel in any app and looking for a selection like “Notification Preferences” (in Slack) or “Push Notifications” (in Skype for Business). Then, select the level of contact that feels right for you and your workflow.

Slack and Microsoft Teams work great at this function: enabling different sub-channels of communication for different tasks or teams. This prevents the old “too many cooks in the kitchen” problem while limiting the burden of an avalanche of chats for people who may not need to participate in every discussion. Simply create new teams or channels with specific titles and descriptions, then invite the people that need to be a part of that discussion as needed.

The main benefit of chat-based collaboration apps is that they retain a log of all communication that is easily searchable and archived for reference. Keeping real-time correspondence on one of these platforms is far more effective than sending hundreds of emails. When you need to find a key piece of information, you won’t have to cut through the clutter of an overstuffed inbox or an endless string of text message chains.

While the current situation in North America is keeping most of us working from home and on our laptops or desktop computers, things will surely get better soon and allow all of us more much-needed flexibility and travel. Before that day arrives, make sure you’ve got mobile and desktop versions of your preferred collaboration apps downloaded to all your devices so you can stay in touch and keep the conversation going no matter where you are.No matter how you connect to your collaboration apps, don’t trust a simple password to keep them safe. Instead, activate MFA, which requires something you know (your password) and something you have (a unique code usually delivered via text message) to make logging in more secure. You may think, “Who on Earth would want to compromise my chat app and steal my messages?” But that’s exactly the kind of rich vein of information that hackers covet as they try to refine their social engineering and phishing schemes.

For many of us, working from home means working harder—and for longer hours. It’s easy to stay busy well past normal office hours, especially if you have kids at home who require extra attention during the day. Instead of saying, “I’ll work on that tomorrow,” many of us say, “I’ll finish that later tonight.” And chat-based collaborative apps can make it even easier to stretch ourselves too thin. That’s why healthy boundaries of availability and connectivity are a must.

Thankfully, capabilities like those are baked into all the aforementioned platforms. And with support from a trusted IT provider, your company and its employees can succeed, even in these trying times.

Want to learn more about enabling collaborative work environments, managing remote teams, and staying productive? Contact CMIT Solutions today. We can help your business stay secure, stay productive, and stay running. We’re in this together—and we’re here for you.

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