If you work on a team, there’s a good chance your group communicates with the help of online group chats. There are so many benefits to using online chats with your team, and these benefits extend even beyond being displaced from our offices and working from home.

As great as these chats are, it’s also more important than ever to follow certain rules and guidelines for communicating in the workplace.

Whether it’s standing around the water cooler or over an online group chat, there are certain topics off-limits for coworkers. At the same time, there are guidelines that should be followed to ensure the conversations are appropriate and respectful. With that in mind, here are seven rules for online group chats with coworkers.

Rules for Online Group Chats with Coworkers

Return to these rules anytime you need a refresher, or go ahead and share them with your team so everyone’s on the same page.

Respect “do not disturb”

If a coworker enables the “do not disturb” feature on an online group chat, consider their door closed and respect this boundary at all times. Now more than ever, it’s hard to separate home-life from work-life. By waiting until your coworkers return to online status, you can help give them the space and time they need.

If you wouldn’t say it in person…

Don’t say it online! It’s easy to hide behind a screen and you might feel more comfortable or empowered typing your thoughts than saying them out loud. But before you do this, stop and ask yourself if it’s something you would say out loud to your coworkers too. When the answer is no, that’s a telltale sign it shouldn’t be shared at all.

Give the benefit of the doubt

Give the benefit of the doubt

Have you ever communicated with someone online or via text that had a completely different communication style than you? Maybe you’re a big fan of exclamation marks, while they wouldn’t be caught dead adding this kind of emphasis to their messages. All too often, these messages end up getting misinterpreted. When a coworker says “Okay” rather than “Okay!” don’t always assume it’s because they’re upset. Give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their communication style, especially if you don’t know them well and you aren’t familiar with how they communicate.

Be respectful and professional

Be respectful and professional

This is a great rule for EVERY kind of communication, not just online group chats. No matter how difficult or frustrating the subject, every message you share should always be respectful. This includes following the guidelines set for the chat, as well as being kind, fair, and reasonable in your responses. This doesn’t mean you can’t be honest or direct. Instead, it means remaining professional and respectful, even when that’s not how you’re feeling inside.

Consider your audience in online group chats

You might be chatting with a coworker who is also a friend, but remember: online group chats for coworkers are not the same as your private conversations. Even if your boss isn’t part of the conversation, there’s always the possibility your chat could be exported or other people have access to it. This is yet another reason it’s important to be respectful and appropriate.

Create separate chat rooms

Rather than broadcasting your every thought to your entire team in group chat rooms, consider creating separate chat rooms for some messages. These are helpful if you have a message or comment to relay to one team member. It prevents polluting the group chat and helps keep things streamlined.

Depending on the online chat platform you use, you can name these separate chats and seamlessly switch from room to room. (See this in action with a live demo from Swift Chat)

Know when to choose other options

A large majority of the time, using online group chats is the most effective option for communicating with coworkers. But just like breaking up with someone is best done NOT over text, there are certain conversations that should be had in person or at least over the phone. This includes breaking difficult news to a single team member or relaying other important or impactful information. Taking the time to make a phone call or meet with that person face to face demonstrates a certain level of respect.

Similarly, when messages aren’t urgent, sometimes email is a better choice. Online group chats are suited for quick and easy interactions—things that require straightforward answers or actions. But if you don’t need an answer right away, you might choose to email coworkers instead. This can also prevent that message from getting lost in the shuffle of a busy group chat.

Other rules for online group chats

Other rules for online group chats

Depending on the purpose of your group chat, there are different rules and guidelines that might be appropriate. We recommend clearly outlining these guidelines with any and all chat members before they get access to the platform. And don’t forget to assign moderators too!

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