Team chat etiquette to boost employee morale

Some ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ for virtually engaging with your colleagues.

When the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer reports that people trust their peers more than other authority figures, communicators are reminded just how much our daily interactions make an impact on how our colleagues feel. Each touchpoint and message is an opportunity to reinforce trust, cultural engagement and a sense of psychological safety – all of which foster belonging and enrich the employee experience.

Without proper guidelines or rules of play for remote interactions, however, managers and peers alike may be uncertain whether it’s appropriate ato message their team, reply to a comment, offer a fun aside or otherwise engage with the chat. 

Here are some ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ for engaging with your colleagues on chat, straight from the experts. 


  • Respect your colleagues’ availability. According to Microsoft, their availability status should be gospel. “Never ping a colleague who’s set themselves as unavailable—unless they’ve expressly asked you to,” the company behind Teams recommends. “And be sure that your own availability status is current so that no one messages you during a presentation or when you’re out of the office. Not doing so can lead to the following behaviors, according to Microsoft:
    • You annoy them because they are busy but answer because they feel bad ignoring you. It must be urgent, after all, as you ignored their busy or be right back status.
    • They forgot to change their status. You get hold of them. The latter is the desired outcome but we need to give people the benefit of the doubt here. Instead of calling and seeing which of those three outcomes you get, use your one-to-one chat to see if/when they’re free for a call. If they don’t reply, their status is probably correct.
  • Use private channels for private matters. Sometimes you need to get a message across that not everyone on the team needs to see. That’s what private channels are for. Sensitive or private topics can live in private channels so only the relevant eyes see them.  Similarly, it can sometimes feel quicker or easier to enforce accountability when you put an ask or suggestion for one person in the team chat. Before doing so, ask yourself if it’s more effective to reach a person directly. Putting a specific need for a specific colleague to address in front of everyone may make the need seem like a bigger issue than it is. Discretion demonstrates sensitivity and mindfulness.
  • Get to know accessibility functions and best practices.“Being inclusive and making sure every voice is heard isn’t just good professional communication etiquette,” writes Microsoft. “It also helps to nurture collaboration and improve your team’s productivity.”
  • Mind your tone on messaging apps. According to Vacation Tracker, you should take care in carefully checking how your tone might come across in a chat message. “Your tone might not always translate as you imagined. Be careful when messaging colleagues you’ve never spoken to or met in person. They are less likely to understand your way of communicating, joking, or giving feedback. That’s why always read the message you’re about to send twice and rewrite (or eliminate) everything that could potentially be taken in the wrong way. Better safe than sorry!”
  • Make sure the conversation stays relevant to its given channel. A little venture off-topic every now and then isn’t a bad thing. But keeping channels on-topic will help ensure that everyone has the resources they need at their fingertips.
  • Set your out-of-office replies. When you’re out of the office, be sure to let other people know that you aren’t available. A lot is going on at work every day, and people might forget that you asked for time off. Having an out-of-office message will help people remember that you’re taking time off and guide them elsewhere when they’re in search of answers from you.


  • Don’t feel pressured to respond instantly. Zoom’s best practices for chat emphasize the importance of using the tool as an opportunity to restore some sense of work/life balance. “To avoid distractions during the workday or in your off-time, customize your notifications or mute channels to ensure you only receive those for urgent or important messages,” the post reads. “I turn off the number of notifications by default and only enable them for the channels and chats most important to me,” added one user. “It provides a true number of messages I need to tend to.”
  • Don’t derail the natural flow of conversation. Sometimes, in an effort to feel included, a colleague will sideline or redirect a conversation to something more directly relevant to their interests or focus. Be mindful that we all have the capacity to do this. Changing the subject or focus can make your colleagues feel unheard and unvalidated. If you sense momentum to a conversation that you have no stake in, remember that there is no obligation to chime in. 
  • Don’t overdo it on the emojis. “When it comes to injecting some fun into your digital conversations, a little goes a long way,” writes Microsoft. “Try to match your emoji, meme, and GIF usage to the rest of your team. You don’t want to be “that” person. 😛”. 
    • Similarly, engineer Matt Wade suggests matching your chosen GIF or meme to something that aligns with your company culture or avoiding them altogether. “They take up space, not everyone likes them, and you may not be as funny as you think you are,” he wrote. “Keep a specific channel for fun stuff where memes and gifs are fair game!”
  • Don’t overtag everyone. Avoid mentioning “@everyone” or “@channel” unless it’s absolutely necessary. Nobody likes receiving notifications about things that only peripherally apply to them. Use discretion. 

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports and hosting trivia.

Justin Joffe is the editorial director and editor-in-chief at Ragan Communications. He oversees the editorial strategy for Ragan across brands and products.

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