Skip to main content


Healthy internal communication is critical for good teamwork and the atmosphere in the workplace. Vanderbilt offers a variety of ways for teams to communicate. These include Zoom, Skype, Slack, and Microsoft Teams. Please note that use of these tools can create records that are maintained even after you close the chat; don’t put anything into an “instant message” that you wouldn’t put into an email.

Zoom: Zoom is the video conferencing app Vanderbilt uses for virtual meetings.

Skype for Business: Skype features group chats, file sharing, free audio and video calls, free group video calling, and screen sharing. Your office phone (if applicable) will be through Skype.

Slack: Slack is a tool for real-time (chat) team communication. To access Slack, first, you need to join the team or create one. Once you are in, you will see a clean and straightforward interface with a few different channels. Channels are used to group conversations on different topics, and you can easily create your custom channels. You can also use private messages for direct, one-on-one communication or create your private channels with only a few co-workers.

  • Slack users can also add a zoom plugin and outlook plugin to make it easier to join meetings.
  • Check out this video on how to use Slack.

Teams: Microsoft Teams is a unified communication and collaboration platform that combines persistent workplace chat, video meetings, file storage (including collaboration on files), and application integration. The service integrates with other Microsoft Office 365 services and includes extensions that can integrate with non-Microsoft products.

Box: Box Collaboration Tool is a cloud content management and file sharing utility. Box is a cloud storage solution allowing you to store up to 100 GB of files and access them from anywhere. You can invite others to collaborate with you, share files and folders through a simple web link, and sync files from Box to your desktop or vice versa. You can also access Box from your mobile device.

Follow the tips below to help your team bond and stay connected while working remotely.

  • Do not rely on email. To collaborate with the whole team, and to avoid misunderstandings between team members, it is preferable to use tools that are built for group communication rather than emailing individuals. It is also a way of keeping communication about specific collaborative projects separate so they do not get lost in a crowded inbox.
  • Meet (virtually) face-to-face. Videoconferencing will give teams access to the non-verbal cues they rely on for more subtle meaning and is ideal for brainstorming sessions. It will make people feel more connected too - just the sight of their colleagues will help them feel they are not losing touch.
  • Make time for chat. Water-cooler conversation is where some of the best ideas are born, so your tools need to give teams virtual space for it. Whether it is setting up a dedicated chat channel, or just making time for idle conversation at the beginning and end of meetings, don’t feel you need to organize every interaction. Give room to let the conversation flow.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Misunderstandings can happen more easily when people are working virtually. Check that people understand collaboration goals and roles. Make sure you know who is going to do what after every meeting. And keep communication channels open so people know they can ask questions whenever they need to.

Different messages require different communication channels in a virtual environment. Staff and leaders should work together to identify both A) preferred methods of communication and B) the ideal communication tools/approach based on the work and topic at hand. Considerations and ideal uses include:

  • Shared online databases (e.g. Teams, Slack, Box)
    • Collaborative work
    • Discussion Threads
    • Idea Sharing
  • Email
    • Progress updates
    • Non-urgent issues/questions
    • Individual or team accomplishment highlights
  • Instant Messaging (e.g. Teams, Slack, Skype, or Text)
    • Urgent questions
    • Informal discussions – but remember, even these informal messages should be work-appropriate; they create records that may be maintained by the university or be produced in case of litigation
    • Real-time information sharing
  • Telephone
    • Sensitive or urgent issues
    • Situations where tone is critical
    • Real-time information sharing
    • Decision making conversations
    • Formal discussions regarding project status, development needs, or emerging opportunities/challenges
  • Video conference (e.g. Zoom, Teams)
    • Delivery of difficult messages
    • Formal discussions regarding project status, development needs, or emerging opportunities/challenges
    • Monitoring team morale
    • Team meetings
    • Team engagement activities

If you have any technical support needs, Vanderbilt IT is here to meet your needs. You can reach VUIT by calling 615-343-9999 Monday - Thursday 7:00 am - 11:00 pm, Friday 7:00 am - 6:00 pm, and Sunday from 2:00 pm - 11:00 pm. You can also submit a help request at or text for help at 615-343-IT4U (4848).  More information can be found on IT’s main website (

  • Technical Support from VUIT includes:
    • Duo Assistance
    • Technical Assistance with software or products
    • Zoom Assistance
    • Hardware/Computer Assistance
    • Cybersecurity Concerns

If you are having technical difficulties, such as your hardware has crashed or your computer won’t turn on, be sure to notify your supervisor. It is a good idea to exchange cell phone numbers with your supervisor and team members as a just in case.

·Internet or Electric Problems

  • Sometimes our home internet or even our electricity is out, interrupting our availability. If this happens you should immediately email (if you have the Outlook App on your phone) or text/call your direct supervisor and tell them the issues you are having.

Being in a virtual setting has the ability to prohibit many of the natural interactions that occur in the in person setting. This is especially true of meetings. In person meetings allow for time to walk from meeting to meeting, a few moments of casual conversation as you wait for others to get to the meeting space, the ability to read body language and jump into a conversation and many others. That is why when holding virtual or hybrid meetings it is important that you make a conscience effort to create these same things.

  • Relaxed entry into a meeting: In person meetings do this naturally. Individuals come into a meeting space, greet each other and wait for others to join. It is important to create this environment in the virtual setting. When joining a virtual meeting make a point to say hello and greet the others in the meeting. If you don’t know someone feel free to introduce yourself. Starting this way will help to engage the group.
  • Make time for casual conversation: After greetings, it is important to start with a few minutes of friendly interaction. In virtual settings you don’t have the face-to-face interaction that you get with in person meetings. So, you have to work harder to create an environment that fosters trust and rapport with the team. Allowing a few minutes for team members to get to know one another will provide for this opportunity.
  • Meetings should have breaks to allow for down time in between (start meetings at 5 min after or only schedule for 45 minutes.)