Are you drowning in emails or text messages in your workplace environment? Do you find yourself communicating with the same person, on the same business topic, across multiple modes of communication? Is managing all of the various tools (phone calls, email, chat, voicemail, online team workspaces, etc.) consuming too much of your time? If your company is like most others, chances are your employees and customers are feeling some pain along these lines. More and more industry analysts and behavior experts are beginning to question the impact of communications overload on today’s workforce.
Of course, the reason we are using tools like messaging and web meetings in the first place is that we find the features and benefits of those offerings useful. At Altus, what we have found is that much of the frustration in communications overload arises from using the tools in the wrong ways. The problem is not that text messaging is bad, its that our employees and colleagues are using text messaging in the wrong situations. To address these challenges, a growing number of companies are adopting communications guidelines or standards and taking steps to educate workers on the best situations for different modes of communications. Below is some of what we’ve learned about effective use of various tools in the modern workplace.
Email was invented a long, long time ago. It is very useful but has its limits. The average office worker receives over 120 emails each day. Email is great for conveying updates or ideas that need a little bit of context, periodic communications, or interactions with external participants. It is a bad tool for answering questions, so try not to ask open ended questions. Q&A is easier achieved live, either in person or on a call. Emails should be crisp and to the point and avoid unnecessary fluff. At its worst form, email can create a sort of de facto to-do list, with employees merely responding to the latest messages or shortest tasks in their inbox and never engaging in any thoughtful work. If your job consists of sitting down at a screen, opening your email, and then reacting, then you are probably not being as efficient or proactive in your work as you should be. Do not write an email if a phone call or brief conference call will be more effective and get to the nub of an issue more quickly. Also, do not write a reactive email when you receive one you don’t like or disagree with. Make sure to take time to calm down and let the heat of the moment pass by. Anything in writing can last forever, and can also show up in unwanted places – like litigation discovery. Two last email tips: Don’t cc everyone under the sun, and don’t feel like you need to respond to every message you receive. The less you send, the easier you make it on others.
Text Messaging / Chat
The best use for text messaging, SMS, or chat is when something is urgent or time-sensitive and is quick and easy for the recipient to answer. At Altus, we have also found chat to be particularly useful when our colleagues are on the phone, because they can often respond to a chat without interrupting the flow of their call and this also can cut down on the need for email and voicemail. When a person receives a text or a chat, it is almost impossible to ignore, so the difficulties usually arise when workers interrupt each other for questions that really aren’t time sensitive. Furthermore, complex or nuanced ideas are not things that are easily shared via text messaging.
Unless you have been living in a cave, you have probably heard of persistent team collaboration spaces like Slack, WebEx Teams, or Microsoft Teams. These online collaboration workspaces are best suited for teams working on a common project over a period of time. They are useful repositories for keeping files, providing updates, addressing questions, and tracking progress on a project. The nice think about them is that workers can check in a couple of times a day (or week) and quickly see everything they need to about the particular project, and also that a sort of comradery or culture often develops around the project itself. The danger is when these tools turn into all day meetings with little effective oversight or agenda, or whether the hanging out and chatting back and forth interrupts true ‘deep work’ time. Unless your colleagues are in the space with you, don’t expect to hear back from them right away.
Receiving a phone call can be highly disruptive, so it is of paramount importance to keep time of day in mind and restrict calls to the right circumstances. That said, a live conversation has many benefits and can be the best mode of interaction for nuanced issues, confidential matters, emergencies, or group discussions where multiple parties need to participate and interact. Live calls and meetings are also good because more tone gets communicated than in some of the other media, so people perceive not just what is said but how it is said. However, if the matter is non-urgent, not confidential, and relatively straightforward, than probably a phone call is not the best route.
Altus is the premier choice for cloud-based business communications, providing companies with flexible and secure technologies that help employees and customers stay connected more easily. Whether looking for basic voice service, comprehensive unified communications, contact center, or network services, business executives trust Altus to deliver the latest features and functionality at affordable prices. Start communicating better with Altus. For more information, visit www.altustechnology.com or call toll free 866.922.4001.