An inside look at the apps and tools that cut through the noise of remote working
They say that one of the biggest benefits of working remotely is being able to do your work from the “peace and quiet” of your own home. But in reality, the typical workday for someone on a distributed team is noisier than ever.
In this sense, the “noise” is all the stuff that’s standing between us and productivity. It’s the spreadsheet juggling, the back-to-back Zooming, the file shuffling. It’s all those digital microtasks that have us switching from screen to screen and app to app.
But hey — at least we didn’t have to work this way 10 years ago. Today, the best Slack apps are able to integrate all of my critical tasks and responsibilities into a single, streamlined workspace. From Zoom scheduling to culture building, I can do it all directly from Slack.
Here are the six Slack-integrated apps that have made my remote workday easier to handle.
Greenhouse: As-you-go people
My mornings are pretty stress-free. A hot cup of tea, a workout, and a quick shower. I like to keep it simple because from that point on, it’s pretty much back-to-back for the rest of the workday with a short break for lunch.
My team has been growing at record speeds, and usually, my afternoons consist of at least one interview with a candidate. I typically kick off my day by taking inventory of any candidate interviews I have to make sure I’m prepared for any meetings to come.
Of all the daily tasks I have been able to integrate into my Slack workspace, nothing has saved me more time than Greenhouse. The app integrates with Slack and puts applications, referrals, candidate scorecards, all of it in one place.
Greenhouse can be configured to send recruiting notifications to where they need to go. If we’re looking at a new candidate, the entire process is facilitated with automated prompts and messages. Our Slack channels are updated with candidate info right away, and we always know exactly where we are in the process. The best part is that I don’t have to keep logging in and out of LinkedIn to manage interviews or talent recruitment.
Outlook Calendar: Has my back from the get-go
From there, I am off to my first meeting of the day. With Outlook Calendar integrated directly into my Slack workspace, I don’t need to waste any time in the mornings planning out my day. Every appointment or Zoom call I schedule over the course of the week is sent directly to Outlook. There’s no need to log into my calendar to see what the day has in store; Slack uses my Outlook calendar data to make sure that I’m always where I need to be (digitally speaking).
In these days of back-to-back Zoom calls, I have my Slack alerts set for one minute before. That’s pretty much all the time I need to go from one meeting to another, without any chaff in between.
G Suite / Google Docs: Seamless document sharing
I typically jump from one call to the next, so anything that helps me share and view documents faster is a lifesaver. In previous jobs, nothing frustrated my team more than when I sent out a new document without remembering to update the sharing permissions. The back-and-forth access requests were not only time consuming, but they were becoming a big distraction for everyone involved.
For my team and I alike, G Suite integration is a miracle-level fix. Every file that we share amongst the team is automatically double checked for permissions. If I put a new document or sheet into a Slack channel, I’ll get an instant notification if not everyone has access. Then, without leaving the Slack channel, I can correct the permissions with a single click, and I am off to my next call.
After I’ve finished my morning meetings, I like to carve out some time for a lunch break, so I can check in with my family, have a quick bite to eat, and take a screen break. It’s a helpful way to find some balance throughout the day, even if it is just 20-minutes away from the desk.
Google Sheets for Workflow Builder: Team decision tracking, at scale
To me, a successful team is one that has the freedom and support to make decisions as they need to be made. I am always encouraging my direct reports to pull the trigger on the action items that need to be addressed in the moment, instead of grinding everyone’s day to a halt to get the go-ahead.
But with a team of 30+, this means that any given work week can have us making dozens, if not hundreds of decisions.
With Workflow Builder we were able to create a custom, automated process that keeps track of every decision being made, right from the Slack workspace. With every meeting or Zoom call, our custom workflow prompts us to enter the critical Who / What / Why of any decisions being made.
After that, the information is sent to a spreadsheet that we can review at each meeting. It makes it possible for everyone to stay on the same page, and we were able to build the entire workflow in about 20 minutes. Following my afternoon interview, I usually hop into this Workflow and drop in some decisions that were made over the course of the day.
Donut: Reclaiming the watercooler moments
We used to be able to bump into colleagues in the hall, or meet the new-hire at lunch. We didn’t realize it, but these “soft meetings” were doing more than generating chit-chat, they were welding us into a team. I like to start my day in Slack channels, catching up and connecting with my team, who today, is all over the country.
Donut has allowed us to reclaim the important cultural moments that we have lost. This is an app that is designed to facilitate social team interactions that might not otherwise happen among a distributed team. Donut can set up virtual coffee meet-ups, remote team lunches, and cross-department introductions, all on its own.
Donut’s conversation prompts inside Slack channels are my favorite feature. One morning the prompt was for each team member to list their favorite song. That day, my team’s all-time favorite tunes became the soundtrack to my workday — everything from Tom Petty to AJR.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this mode of effortless digital team-building can be even more effective than anything I used to do when we were all working in the same building.
Not just for remote work: Slack apps are taking the “grind” out of the daily grind
As we transition to a post-COVID workplace, I think it’s important to carry with us some of the apps, tools, and techniques that have made remote work not only bearable, but in some cases, even more streamlined than before.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re working from home or if you’re headed back into the office, the noise of the digital age isn’t going anywhere. By integrating your critical apps and workflows with your Slack workspace, it’s possible to put all that chatter into one place, making sure that you’re not ignoring the things that need your attention, while not becoming distracted with the things that you don’t.
To stretch the metaphor, “noise” is only noise when it doesn’t have any structure. Put the notes into place, and it’s called music.