When was the last time you picked up your phone to speak with a colleague? Or used video chat to connect with a colleague in another country? Or walked over to your colleague in the cube or office nearby for a face-to-face conversation?
I have spoken to several organizations on technology and interpersonal communication in the workplace. Nine times out of ten, an over reliance on email and texting to communicate is leading to tense interpersonal dynamics in the workplace.
In many ways, it’s an endemic that has been building since the 90s – when email began to take hold within corporations as a channel for communication – and started to replace interpersonal communication as the primary source of communication.
What impact does that have on employees, teams and work culture when we are hard-wired as a species for face-to-face communication? For us, 50% of communication is verbal and 50% non-verbal. We’ve been operating at 50% capacity for a long time.
Here are a few tips to help you work the other 50% back into your work life:
Log-off email for at least one-hour per day. Email takes you away from your actual work. It’s meant to be one channel of communication, not the primary channel occupying 100% of your focus throughout your day. Try logging off for one hour per day and turning your mobile off to focus on your projects.
Switch from an email exchange to an in-person communication at least once a day. Do you find yourself emailing a colleague you sit next to or texting someone nearby? Start making in-person communication a priority. Try it at least once a day to begin with and build up from there. The bonus – it will increase trust and respect among your colleagues.
Pick up the phone. If you receive an email or text that is ambiguous or requires clarification, pick up the phone and call the sender. The same holds true if a string of emails is growing exponentially on one topic.
Use short, clear messages. If you cannot extricate yourself from email, make your messages short and to the point without being abrupt. Bullet points are your friend. Use the subject line to alert the recipient as to the type of email they are receiving. Next to the subject line add: “requires action/response”, “FYI only”, or “requesting input” to help the recipient manage the communication their end.