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Your Slack Watercooler Channel Isn’t Helping With Team Building


Using Slack for team building is like asking someone what they do for work at a party.


It’s awkward, and it’s just not the right tool for the job.


There are much better ways to get people to open up.


Although Slack is commonly used for watercooler-style conversations, it doesn’t really work for team building.


You need more than a #general or #hangout channel to build teams in a virtual or hybrid setting. Keep reading to learn why. Plus, get our recommendations for 3 tools that are better for the job.


7 reasons why Slack doesn’t work for team building


In watercooler-style channels, a manager might ask questions occasionally and encourage team members to answer. These channels are usually duds.


Here’s why:


1. Slack is a place for work

Slack has an estimated 20 million monthly active users. Although Microsoft Teams reigns supreme with schools and government organizations, Slack has won the hearts of most startups, small businesses, and enterprises.


As such, Slack is decidedly a tool designed for work—not for building relationships with work friends.


It’s where we send informal messages to work colleagues, ask for help, check in on project status, etc. etc.


When it comes to fun and meaningful team building, the whole vibe is off.



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➡️ The Fix: Get a separate tool for asynch team building.



2. Slack can be stressful

Not only is Slack designed for work, but it’s also a stressful place at that.


Inside of Slack, employees might receive dozens of messages an hour. The platform is notoriously distracting and encourages multitasking, which humans can’t actually do.


By encouraging employees to participate in team building activities inside of Slack, you’re essentially saying: Team building isn’t important enough to us to invest in or create a welcoming space for.


Employees who receive tons of Slack messages due to the nature of their role will avoid it unless absolutely necessary.


➡️ The Fix: Use an asynch team building tool that is single-purpose and fun.



3. ParticipationPartly due to the reason above, participation tends to be low.

If you’ve ever hopped in a #general or #hangout Slack channel as a procrastination device, you’ve probably noticed that it’s the same people engaging again and again.


At most companies, participation in watercooler channels will be 5-15% of the total staff.


➡️ The Fix: Use a platform that encourages participation through better UX, a more enjoyable experience, and reminders.



4. Responses get buried and lost

Just like it’s hard to find assets and important messages inside of Slack, it’s also hard to find more personal conversations.


After something gets asked, answered, or posted in a watercooler channel, it’s pretty much gone in a few weeks.


➡️ The Fix: Use an asynch team building platform that stores and categorizes team building conversations.



5. Messy threads discourage connection

Each Slack post offers one thread—and no sub-threads. While this is useful for work conversations (better visibility), it’s a pain for personal conversations.


Take movie recommendations for example. People can’t reply to one another’s movie recommendations and ask questions because that creates several different conversations happening in a single thread.


People either leave a mess behind them or they just don’t reply to one another’s responses because the format is off. There’s simply no room for one-on-one connections.


➡️ The Fix: Use a platform where teammates can easily chat about each other’s responses to a question.


For example, with Ketchup, people answer 1-3 questions daily on various lighthearted and deeper subjects. Everyone can comment on each other’s individual responses.




6. There are no team insights

Slack may provide an analytics dashboard for admins, but it doesn’t offer team building insights of any kind.


You can’t see where your team falls on a certain topic, like the scale of introversion to extroversion or how everyone prefers to receive feedback. People can’t check who they’ve connected with that week.


➡️ The Fix: Try out a team building platform that collects averages and insights so you can get to know your team as a whole. Make sure these insights are available to everyone, not just managers.



7. You can’t easily pull up one person’s details and responses

Everyone’s engagement and responses are stored in threads.


There’s no way to check what that person has recommended, shared about their recent vacation, said about their kid’s science fair wins, etc.


The Fix: Use a team building platform that creates user manuals (so to speak), so you can quickly look up what makes anyone on your team tick.


For example, a user manual automatically generated with Ketchup includes categories with the person’s answers to questions that fit that category.




3 alternatives to Slack for virtual and hybrid team building


Fortunately, there are better ways to encourage team building and provide the power for deeper connections, which impact our success and satisfaction.


Here are 3 different options, that can all be used separately or together:


1. Ketchup

Best for: Ongoing asynch team building



Ketchup is a tool designed to facilitate asynch team building. It’s a great fit for either virtual or hybrid teams. Quick daily questions help people get to know each other between meetings and meet-ups. Questions range from work style to hobbies to personal life. Everyone can comment on each other’s responses to dig deeper. You can also view each other’s user manuals to find someone’s responses all in one place. There are insights into how the entire team responded to an important question, and these insights are available for everyone on the team to view.


Pros:

  • It’s asynchronous, so it’s great for teams that already communicate mostly asynch.

  • Builds up a user manual for each person over time.

  • Provides insights to everyone, not just managers.

  • Takes the burden of team building off of managers’ shoulders and gets everyone involved.

  • Only takes a few minutes each day to participate and engage.

  • Fun and enjoyable to use.


Cons:


  • Can get overwhelming for large companies, but this can be remedied by breaking everyone into smaller teams or departments, instead of putting everyone in one Ketchup space.

  • Operates as a separate platform, which can be challenging for people who are used to doing everything in Slack, but it offers email reminders and a mobile app to make it easy for people to participate.

  • Not designed to foster interaction between departments in large companies, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re looking for team building within teams and departments, or if you have a small company (40 or fewer people).


2. Donut

Best for: Quick meetings with new connections outside of your team



Donut offers a few different products. For all of the reasons mentioned above, we don’t recommend their Watercooler product, which is basically an extension for Slack that attempts to manage watercooler channels. We’ll focus on their Intros product here, which connects people from the same company so that they can get to know each other on video calls. This can be great for interdepartmental relationships and mentoring.


Pros:

  • Great for new employees who want to get to know each other.

  • Can be a good fit for younger employees looking for mentors.

  • Helps forge deeper relationships.

Cons:

  • Requires Zoom conversations, when everyone’s calendar is already so full.

  • Takes up too much time.

  • Not ideal for introverts or people who feel drained by video conversations.


3. BoomPop

Best for: Occasional virtual events with all of the materials and instructions covered


With BoomPop, you can set up virtual events for your team in a matter of minutes, instead of spending weeks coordinating all the different elements. For example, you can host a DIY-pumpkin-spice-latte-making event, a cocktail-mixing event, or a mystery-solving event. Because there are so many things to choose from, you can really pick something that matches the spirit of your team. You might even consider offering options for your team to choose from if it’s hard to pick something that will fit everyone.


Pros:

  • Manages everything for you, including shipping necessary materials to distributed team members.

  • Dozens of different events across dining, cocktails, baking, games, etc.

  • Offers seasonal themes which are great for holiday parties.

Cons:

  • Shipping the items for certain events isn’t available in all states or countries (depends on each event).

  • Because these are longer events, not everyone will want to participate, but that’s okay.

The final word? Team building should be fun and meaningful, so make sure it is.


Curious about asynch team building? Come check out Ketchup.