The Soft Return, and Other Slack and Zoom Hacks You Need

If you’re a desk worker, you’re likely 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.

Schedule Liberally

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.

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