Cool Slack Apps & Bots to Make Your Work Life Stellar

slack apps

Slack is one of our all-time favorite tools; in fact, you’ve probably heard us bring it up once or twice in the past. It’s amazing, and we love to flaunt all the awesome tools we use to get sh*t done.

Be prepared to hear about it again – but in a newer, better light. 

Until recently, we haven’t taken advantage of the very, very full roster of ways to pimp out your Slack channels and functionality. This was a HUGE mistake on our part. There’s a little something for everyone, for every industry, for every need from business management to team building to overall happiness.

Zapier whipped up a list of their own thoroughly-vetted, totally free Slack apps that they use and recommend. Sufficed to say, we’re now scrambling to install them all and get up to speed.

“The most interesting ones are the free Slack apps that convert Slack into the hub for your business. Instead of switching between Slack and other apps, these tools let you do everything from basic HR organization to team-building and project management right inside Slack.

To select these apps, we combed the Slack directory, searching for apps that added a feature that couldn’t be easily duplicated natively in Slack. To meet the criteria for this article, each app needed to be useful across a broad range of team and company types, in addition to being free. Here are our favorites.”

Take a look at their fully-charted list right here, and keep scrolling for our highlighted favorites:

While there’s obviously a slew of incredible applications, integrations, and bots to make the world of Slack even more productive and fulfilling, we wanted to focus on just a favored few from the list above that we are either using currently or are planning on using in the future.

1. Meekan

A simple, powerful app to help you schedule meetings with people on your team. We could have used this, like… years ago.

“Meekan understands human-readable requests, such as “Meekan, I need to meet with @dscrute @jhalpert and @abernard about sales stats next week.” Meekan will then analyze each person’s calendar to find the ideal meeting time, then suggest the best times in a Slack thread beneath the original message.”

2. Donut

A very cool way to connect with your co-workers – especially when you’re working remotely.

“Enter Donut, a Slack app that randomly pairs coworkers and reminds them to meet up, whether it’s for coffee or just a 15 minute Slack call. For example, at Zapier, we use Donut to randomize meetings between all employees who are in the #pair-buddies channel.”

3. Stop, Breathe & Think

A complete lifesaver when it comes to working your butt off (also called being a workaholic)!

“The Stop, Breathe & Think Slack app facilitates this from within your workspace. Chat conversationally with the app and give it details such as how you’re feeling mentally and physically in order to receive tailored meditations and breathing exercises that you can do right from your desk.”

What are your favorite apps for Slack (free or paid)? We’d love to hear how you’re getting sh*t done! Let us know in the comments below. 

The Remote Working Movement Will Never Die

IBM’s decision to call its remote workers back to the office has left us feeling restless. Not just because our digital marketers are location independent and can work from anywhere of our choosing, but we feel a statement such as ‘Why Remote Working Will Die’ actually sends the wrong message about the remote movement as a whole. In short, remote working works and has opened up a way for our business to grow in leaps and bounds all over the world.

I, however, want to take a hot second to respond to IBM’s claim that productivity and innovation are weaker off-site than in the office, through the argument that remote working is still misconstrued concept.

To do this, let’s iron out some ‘remote working’ misconceptions:

Remote working is not an ‘all or nothing’ position.  

Think of remote working as a means to create the perfect equilibrium (or the ‘sweet spot’) between working onsite and totally remote. We understand the importance of contact time and aim to have at least 3 Skype calls and 1 face-to-face meet up every week. This timetable offers the best of both worlds but still keeps employees motivated for deliverables and engaged within the agency. Multiple studies have shown that this may be the ‘Goldilocks zone of remote working’ and have great productivity results!

The lost in-person collaboration is arguably not relevant.

Have you heard about this? One of the arguments against remote working is that employees don’t get that ‘spark’ of productivity and creativity, only obtained from working onsite. This argument is weak, as inspirational content creation and sensational inbound marketing ideas aren’t all conceived at your company’s desk (we’ve all had those great inspiration hits in the shower!) As an example, many remote workers decide to travel the world as through a combination of traveling and remote working, you can be sure your interests and engagement will increase.

People are more productive when they are happy!

Remote workers don’t work as hard as they do in the office.

This is simply untrue. There is a misconstrued image of a remote worker as a soul-seeking millennial, lusting after a light job that fulfills their holistic satisfaction and who don’t care to work too much. However, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, 43 percent of Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely last year, up from 39 percent in 2012. With regards to workloads, in actuality, the opposite can happen, with people often finding themselves stretching their work out for hours, because getting to work is so convenient.

Remote working means that your business’ general communication will suffer.

When a team makes the transition to working remotely, this does not necessarily mean that the quality of communication suffers. Actually far from it. On the contrary, workers are choosing to engage in impactful co-worker collaboration, over water cooler gossip. Additionally, there are countless virtual workspace programs available for teams to work with and improve productivity. These allow remote workers to feel that they are never alone and can always reach out for advice when needed.

So, what’s next? Remote workers, don’t panic. Many are drawing from experience and cases to show how telecommuting can be as productive as being at one’s on-site desk. The articles and posts on LinkedIn that are so morbidly titled ‘The Troubled Future of Remote Working’ and ‘Why Remote Working Will Die’ have actually prompted many to share their awesome remote working stories to the masses! We love it when a clan comes together!

Are you a remote worker and want to have your say? Comment below!

Virtual Workspaces: A Chat With Our Junior Growth Hacker

Slack is the remote worker’s dream. Millennials, like myself, will remember the hours glued to the thrilling MSN messenger after school. Slack is MSN’s business-minded big sister, however infinitely more fun and heaps more useful.

Want to send an urgent message to a team member that will pop up on their desktop straight away? Slack lets you do that. Want to manage several projects at the same time with different sets of teams? Slack has multiple channels you can customize and nominate to each task, without getting yourself tangled up.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘What about Microsoft Teams?’, and you’re not wrong to be curious about most innovative group chat software to be associated with Microsoft since Skype. However, my answer to you is: don’t be fooled. There have been numerous times this year where Microsoft has been seen to put pressure on Slack, but the truth is Slack’s user base just ain’t leaving and Slack just keeps on getting sassier. 

I’d like to take some time to run you guys through just some of the reasons why I am a firm Slack fan. I’ll delve into personality, UX, functions and the overall effect as a virtual workspace for the modern day worker. All haters wanting an argie bargie on the subject, feel free to take this down to the comments later.

5 Reasons Why I’m A Slack Fan:

1. Slack are just majestic with their sassiness.

When word of Microsoft’s upcoming Slack competitor swooped on the scene, Slack was quick to respond in the best way they knew how. They took up a FULL 2 PAGE ad in the New York Times to welcome in the new competition. I love it so much that I’m going to include the final part for you to enjoy below:

If this isn’t them marking their virtual workspace territory and upping their sasspoints then I don’t know what is.

2. Slack is a product, Microsoft Teams is a feature.

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Source: The Verge

This is an interesting way to look at Slack and Microsoft Teams together and it truly makes all the difference. Being named ‘the office messaging app that may finally sink email’ in the New York Times, Slack may only have one use but it is far more than a contemporary add-on.

3. Slack is free.

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Source: Business Insider

Let’s consider the fact that anyone who’s anyone can have a Slack account. Slack boasts 4 million active daily users, and of those 1 million are paying customers. Pretty neat, considering they don’t force their premium version upon their users at every login. They have made themselves universal and there’s no doubt these guys certainly know how to growth hack their way to the top.

4. Slack is VERY user-friendly.

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Have you seen their interface recently? It’s pretty cool for a virtual workspace. You have to remember that most Slack users use the software for long hours at a time and this hasn’t gone unnoticed. They’ve taken it as their green card to go all out with exuberant copywriting, and I really enjoy reading their quirky little greeting messages each morning. Slack has focused on the small details and their work really has paid off. They’ve created a really pleasant and exciting user experience.

5. You can add external people into your Slack teams.

Slack prides itself on the awesome feature of adding people from outside your team into your Slack channel. That’s one of the best features right?

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How many times have you been at a meeting and have heard the words ‘I’ll add you into the slack channel now, it’s just easier than the back and forth of email.’ And voila! You can start to engage with your colleagues right then and there, sharing Google docs and Excel sheets at the flick of some rather cool, funky slack buttons. This is a feature that Microsoft Teams just hasn’t got going yet, and it’s potentially one of the main reasons that Slack members are staying for loyal to the software. If they aren’t such firm fans like me already, of course.

So what do you think? Is Slack is here to stay or do you think you will make the move over?

Let us know your thoughts on Twitter!

Virtual Workspaces: A Chat with Our Content Creator

dapulse

A popular communication and collaboration solution for teams and our morning go-to for all things Oliver + Sons, dapulse is what keeps our agency sharp. If you didn’t know before, we are currently a team of five operating remotely from all corners of the globe (Barcelona, London, and San Francisco!). As a work lifestyle, it sounds pretty awesome. And, it is, thanks to this awesome business tool.

We cannot stress enough the sheer amount of organization needed to always be crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s of tasked work in agency life. We needed a business tool that kept up with us; one that allowed us to be scrupulous with our planning and communicate effectively across different time zones.

Dapulse (DP) gives us all of this and more. I caught up with our content creator Lily to see what aspects she looks for in a virtual workspace, and why it satisfies those needs:

Let’s have a further look into why we choose to use dapulse over its competitors by examining the best features of the toolkit itself:

  • An execution board with a big screen display for easy view of all tasks for that week. 

dapulse has its own idiolect to describe its stack rows called pulses, which can be categorized and separated to suit your business’ desired needs. The app is totally customizable as it tracks each change in the status of the task and can be easily updated at any given time. This is great for us to monitor our weekly progress and additionally, allows for tracking of who carried out each particular task.

  • A visual display of progress which, as Lily comments, really increases the motivation to complete tasked work.

With each pulse, there is the option to customize the drop-down menu allowing you to input titles to your specific business needs and requirements. Our Oliver + Sons labels reflect our needs as a remote digital marketing agency.

Our action items are clearly highlighted with color and progress marker lexis for the attention of other remote team members. This feature particularly works well for us, as we are an agency that works within different time zones. As I prepare to sign off for the day, I know that another co-worker can easily begin where I left off and has access to a visual representation of my workload. Awesome!

  • Easy communication that allows you to simply tag people which you wish to include or poke on a specific task.

To collaborate which another member of your team, you simply need to click on the relevant pulse. This then opens up a notes feed where you can send files, tag other members for their attention and discuss matters relating to that set task.

We use this feature at Oliver + Sons to extrapolate more information on a client’s history, the task set, or even for including useful resources which the person tasked may find useful. This feature works similarly to Intercom and is a great way for us to be quickly notified of comments related to a specific task. Email notifications can also be set up to be automatically sent with every change.

Are you using dapulse or have another virtual workspace which you’d like to rave about? Let us know below!

Too Damn Busy: Overcoming That Pesky Work Burnout

Stress is serious business.

It’s bad for your body, bad for your mind, and especially bad for your job. We all became experts at cramming in high school projects and exams, but the constant rush can’t last forever. When the concept of rushing becomes everyday practice, you simply can’t keep up for long.

According to the Wall Street Journal, these “rushers” have tendencies we can all recognize in ourselves and each other, including:

  • Cutting off people while they are speaking.
  • Shifting attention to their devices before the communication is over.
  • Promoting stress by over-emphasizing their need to get things done faster.
  • Making others question their own value because they don’t work at the same levels.

Anything sound familiar? The folks at Trello know a lot about this constantly-rushed, forever-stressed work mentality and decided to take a closer look into how urgency — whether real or perceived — affects us.

Time urgency is the official term for the habit of speeding through tasks and experiences caused by an obsession with the scarcity of time. When experiencing anxiety about the pressure of deadlines and there never being “enough time,” you enter a chronic state of worry that seeps into your sense of accomplishment and self-worth.

The main takeaway? Work is always important, but not at the expense of your health or well-being (or other peoples’ health and well-being).

The irony about the contagion of hurry worry is that it isn’t coming from an external pressure of the lack of time—it’s coming from habit, and habits can be changed. Until companies establish positive group norms that constant rushing and an above-average accelerated pace are not requirements for being deemed a good performer, hurry sickness will continue to spread.

Trello put together a comprehensive backstory and list of recommendations to better manage that hurry-worry and wrangle it into submission so you can be a happier, more productive you. You can read all about it on their blog right here.

How do you combat stress and time management? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!