If you’re a desk worker, you’re two and a half years into WFH at least some of the time or most of the time. Your remote office setup is dialed in: You’ve got your preferred desk chair, your widescreen monitor, your janky little ring light for video calls. No way you’re slacking off; you’re firing off Slacks nonstop, and Zoomin’ like the meeting monster you are.
As long as we’re living our lives through screens, we might as well make “work software” work for us. This is the part where I tell you about a few work hacks simply because I just learned about them, and I’m now convinced that you must implement them too. They’re all software-based, small, and incremental—nothing as glorious as a proper Away message. But they’ll help streamline your work life nonetheless.
You’ll thank me. Your coworkers will thank me. And these tips apply whether you’re still working from home or have confounding ideas on why people should head back to the office.
New Return Policies
If you’re on Slack, you’re likely guilty of having sent a steady barrage of short messages instead of drafting your thoughts into one neat paragraph and hitting Send once. This is annoying. Have you heard the Slack notification sound? Of course you have. Now imagine hearing it seven times in a row while you’re, I don’t know, trying to Zoom.
It’s time to make use of the “soft return” in Slack. In the days of word processing, a soft return was used to insert a line break and make the text begin again on the next line. This is in contrast to a hard return, inserted by pressing the Enter key, which would start a whole new paragraph. In the era of instant messaging—as in Slack—the Enter key usually carries that same paragraph-ending gravitas by functioning as an immediate Send command. However, a single stroke of the Enter key can be programmed to create a break and bring text down to the next line (as in word processing), instead of firing your message off.
Forget the former and embrace the soft return instead. In Slack, click on your profile picture and select Preferences. Once there, go into the Advanced menu. Below Input Options is the phrase “When writing a message, press ‘Enter’ to …” Select “Start a new line.” From that point on, you’ll have to use Command+Enter (Mac) or Ctrl+Enter (PC) to send. Those extra two seconds might give you enough of a pause to consider what you’re about to send, and they'll help you streamline your messages. And, of course, your colleague on the receiving end will hear only one Knock Brush ping instead of 17.
In recent months, WIRED’s US and UK editorial teams have merged, which means (a) we’re now a global newsroom, and (b) people’s schedules (pronounced shed-ules, of course) are all over the place. When you work with colleagues across time zones—or if your workplace has simply established healthy boundaries—you should be cognizant of when people are on the clock and when they’re not. This is where Schedule Send comes in.
To do this, you simply compose a Slack message and, before hitting the Send button, click on the tiny downward arrow next to it and choose “Schedule for later.” Choose from Slack’s suggested times or enter a custom time. (Just know that the times shown are for your time zone, not theirs.) Once you've scheduled a message, you'll notice a channel named “Scheduled” appear in your left sidebar. There, you can edit, reschedule, or delete any scheduled messages.
Google’s Gmail has had the option to schedule-send emails since 2019, and schedule-send is also now available as a text messaging option on Android phones. Apple is a bit, erm, behind schedule here, but in the next version of iOS you’ll be able to schedule Mail, and, if you’re feeling motivated, you can use an iOS Shortcut to delay text messages.
You should use this liberally. It is a much kinder, gentler option than firing off texts or notes whenever something crosses your mind, which might be an inconvenient time for your colleague.
Cal’ing It In
Slack works with more than 2,400 apps, which means you can connect a bunch of non-Slack apps to your account and create all kinds of shortcuts and customizations for yourself. Is this a privacy nightmare? Possibly. Does it make your work life more convenient, if you’re glued to Slack all day? More likely yes.
The most useful Slack integration I’ve discovered is Google Calendar. By connecting my work Calendar to Slack, I’ve enabled a Slack bot that sends me a single notification every morning that includes a run-through of my day’s appointments. It also includes Zoom links for the meetings that have them, so I can join a video meeting on Zoom right from the Slack notification.
One of the off-putting parts of this feature is that the GCal app shares every detail of your calendar appointment to the Slack app—even if you have the event visibility set to “private” in your Calendar. So theoretically, an administrator who has access to your Slack can still see the details of your calendar event even if you intend it to be private. Slack says it’s technically possible to build a feature where users could control which Calendar events are imported with full information and which ones remain private. But it would involve a fair amount of user intervention, probably negating any convenience of the feature. Plus: If you’ve connected a work calendar, your administrator has access to it anyway.
So at the end of the day, if you want this convenience but you’re concerned about privacy, you might want to use the Google Calendar Slack bot but make your legitimately private appointments as cryptic as possible in your Calendar.
Go Off, Zoom
This one is a WIRED favorite—or, as my colleague Jeremy White put it, “Closing Zoom fast is def some sort of journo tech flex.” When you’re on a Zoom call, whether you’re the host or a participant, Command+W on Macs and Ctrl+W on Windows PCs will immediately bring up the option to leave the meeting or end it for all. You’ll still have to hit Leave Meeting at that point, so it’s not a totally clean exit. But there is a way to just ghost: If you go into Zoom’s General settings and uncheck “Ask me to confirm when I leave a meeting,” you can Command+W out of meetings instantly with just one keystroke.
This is probably about two seconds faster than using your mouse to search for End and then leaving the meeting. But hey, there’s no need to linger; you have things to do and places to be. That’s all.
Get In the Huddle
Are you Huddling yet? (Not to be confused with HODL’ing.) What are you waiting for? Slack introduced audio Huddles in the summer of 2021, and it quickly became the company’s fastest-adopted product ever.
Since then Slack has been mucking it up a bit, adding video support to Huddles and positioning the feature as a portal to an entire collaboration suite, but the beauty of Huddles lies in its simplicity. It’s like instant chat, but in audio form. Sometimes a series of text-based messages back and forth just isn’t going to cut it (even if you’re using a polite soft return).
Here’s how to Huddle up: From your Slack channel or private chat, click the headphones icon to the right of the channel’s or colleague’s name at the bottom of the Slack window. This immediately launches a VoIP call and prompts your colleagues to join. (Command+Shift+H also launches a Huddle, if you’re looking for even more of a shortcut.)
It’s worth noting that this will send a ringing notification in Slack, and the Huddle space will hover over the Slack chat column until everyone accepts or rejects the Huddle. So maybe ask before you launch one. And it’s a little buggy; even after I declined a Huddle with my editor (oops), the notification lingered. But generally Huddles is fast, easy, and somehow much less arduous than picking up the phone. You can even turn on captions in the Huddle, which is helpful for those who are hard of hearing.
I’m not going to lie and say Huddling on Slack is as fun as huddling around a water cooler at lunch or a cocktail table at happy hour. It’s not. But it might give you a few minutes back that you can use for other, more enjoyable things.