In years gone by, communicating and interacting was face-to-face, or by post and landline. Anything else just didn’t exist. Today we are reachable even hundreds of kilometers in the sky, ordering our chicken or beef! With all of these methods of interaction, one has to wonder whether it hampers productivity in the workplace or actually increases it.
HowStuffWorks took an interesting look at whether communication tools increase the productivity of people in a recent article. The writer didn’t reach a definite conclusion, but I’m left thinking about how we use these tools and whether we’re managing their use effectively.
What are the positives of using multiple communication tools?
Time saving is probably the biggest pro to using communication tools. Think about the time you’d save if you didn’t have to drive to a meeting and could use Skype or Google hangouts to conference call remote staff, suppliers or even clients?
Another great advantage is that urgency is addressed immediately. You can manage a crisis from practically anywhere in the world, at any time of the day. You no longer have to hurry-up-and-wait.
Sharing information has become a cinch with online tools such as Google Docs that allow for live commentary and engagement. No longer a back-and-forth scenario.
Face-to-face? What’s that? Now you can use tools such as Basecamp to delegate and communicate tasks to remote staff and team members who aren’t able to be office-bound all the time.
Teamwork has also become so much easier, especially with Team Whatsapp groups. Although if a group like this is not managed and team members’ time not respected, it could get out of hand. In fact, the law is on the employees’ side when it comes to harassment by their bosses demanding that they be online and answer messages around the clock, so it’s important that these groups are used when necessary and within reasonable working hours.
And what are the downfalls of communication tools?
Although there have been many studies that suggest that communication tools increase productivity, “subsequent studies suggest that new communications technologies create distractions that may actually decrease productivity.”
There are managers and team leaders that believe that too many communication tools actually decrease productivity. With a phone constantly ringing and pinging, emails popping up on screen, messages via instant messenger and so on, these tools can have the propensity hamper one’s ability to actually put your head down and get work done.
How to manage all of the communication
At Penquin, we use a lot of the mentioned communication tools because we feel it saves time, includes everyone regardless of location and generally gets the job done. But we are also very aware of the fact that managing communication tool overload can literally become a full-time job.
Setting aside certain times to check mails and Google docs for example lets you concentrate on one task at a time. Not every single message needs to be answered right now, so prioritise where you can. Finally, be respectful of your team member’s time. If you know that they are busy with a big project and need time to focus, consider whether you really need to send them a message right now. And if they are off work, consider whether you really need them to answer you right now or if it can wait for a more appropriate time.