WritingMy company, a commercial real estate brokerage with 15 people, uses Slack, and we have found it to be an integral part of not only our community culture, but also our day-to-day functioning and productivity.

At TheSquareFoot, we opted for an open floor plan. We love how this layout fosters a strong sense of community and openness for our team. It encourages daily check-ins, collaboration, and creativity. Still, there are plenty of drawbacks in the form of endless possibilities for potential distraction, from casual conversations to eating noisy snacks to our personal favorite, Nintendo 64 breaks.

This is why we rely on Slack. Thanks to this tool, we’ve been able to overcome many of the challenges of having an undivided workspace without having to sacrifice our fun. Slack chat rooms are our private offices, and direct messages our check-ins and one-on-one meetings. Our development team doesn’t need separate conference rooms to go over last week’s models; they can simply meet in their designated chat. Rather than everyone talking across the room and creating excess noise and a mash of conversation, we keep it online and organized.

Staying Organized

Like anything, using Slack does not come without its share of challenges. One that we faced was things getting lost in the noise of the room and notifications being missed, which would not happen in face-to-face meetings. Product ideas and important announcements were lost amidst our stream of conversation in the general chat. Additionally, it became difficult to reference specific conversations and notes from the past.

A way we’ve overcome this — and become more organized —  is by being more granular with our channels. We’ve gone so far as to even have a “snacks” channel where people can list the snacks they wanted ordered for the office, as well as a marketing-specific chat, a general chat, and even a general product chat for brainstorming sessions. The more specific our rooms are, the easier it is to make conversations productive and reference previous discussions.

Fostering Community

With Slack, we’re able to create a private sphere without threatening the sense of community that is so important to us. For our team, it’s personal relationships that form the web of a team-wide sense of connection. Nobody has to feel excluded because everyone is equally accessible on Slack. To maximize our sense of community, we encourage everyone to contribute to the general chat with ideas, articles (work-related or not), and funny things that have happened to them during the day. We’ve also made our Slack avatars whatever we feel best reflects our personalities, rather than headshots (Toad from Mario Kart, Kevin from Home Alone, Louis Stevens from Even Stevens, etc.). To keep it fun, we frequently use Giphy if the moment is appropriate.

Being able to share fun, funny moments and things of interest on Slack fosters a company-wide sense of community throughout the day. It can be hard to form one-on-one relationships in an open-layout office where group conversation prevails, especially at a startup where everyone is totally engrossed in their work. It’s difficult to find that happy medium between work and personal as well as group and one-on-one conversations, which is why our mini-family relies on Slack. We’ve been able to find that sweet spot between work and the personal by having spaces that are designated for one or the other.

Overall, Slack has fostered a company culture that is more productive, creative and sociable. We knew going in that it would help to organize interoffice communication and serve as a place to share documents, collaborations, and conversations, but the additional benefits for our team on a more personal level have been a wonderful bonus.

This article originally appeared on BusinessCollective. A version of this article also appeared on Huffington Post here.

Currently the cofounder and CFO of TheSquareFoot, Aron Susman began his career in the International Mergers & Acquisitions group at Deloitte in Houston. Most recently a vice president with MDTech, a healthcare technology company, Aron oversaw the company’s financial, accounting, and business development efforts. He graduated cum laude from the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a master’s degree in accounting, and holds a CPA license. 

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