Email, instant messaging and social media have become the favoured methods of communication for many organisations. However, Doug Shaw, founder of consultancy What Goes Around, argues that a lack of face-to-face communication can reduce productivity
The mass adoption of digital communication methods in the workplace has led to a spike in the speed at which information is shared and an increase in how much we are able to communicate. But is this all good? Or has it been to the detriment of the little inflections, nuances and visual cues that come from sharing a conversation in the same physical space as another person?
Postpone or ignore?
The nature of email allows you to postpone responding or even ignore a message altogether. Many executives prefer this to face-to-face conversation, as they may actually be coerced into making an assessment or openly discussing an ongoing issue.
This culture of avoidance has the potential to significantly hamper the progress of organisations by delaying the decision-making process and disrupting the output and efficiency of colleagues in other areas of the business. A face-to-face conversation allows for immediate feedback on an issue and accelerates progress.
A smart HR manager would be wise to promote an office culture in which it is acceptable for employees to physically approach a more senior member of staff with an urgent problem, and organisations should trust their employees to gauge what is urgent and what is not.
The stress of ambiguity
Even if a decision reaches your inbox in good time, an ambiguous email has the potential to be even more damaging than an unpunctual one. A misinterpreted message may lead to incorrect action being taken and can have far-reaching consequences at both a financial and reputational level.
An unclear message will require further clarification, instigating another email "conversation", adding yet more time to the whole process. Having to decipher ambiguous emails can also cause stress and anxiety within a workforce through fear of doing something wrong, particularly if the employees involved are working to a tight deadline.
Creating an environment in which it is preferable for employees to seek verbal clarification from their seniors by picking up the phone or visiting their office help