Availability of top-rate technology in every office has made certain practices seem obsolete, like knocking on someone's door to ask them a question. But how has this technology affected the quality of information that we are communicating?
I love working in an office environment. The ability to walk over to someone's cubicle or office, pose a question to them, and have it answered with all of the clarifications that I need is extremely appealing to me. Then again, it completely aggravates me when someone knocks on my door when I am in the middle of a project - don't they know that I am trying to work here?
Office communication has been revolutionized by new technologies like email, texting, instant messaging, staff web sites, and new programs like Google Wave. With these technologies, we no longer have to wait until someone is available to send them a message, get an important document .to them, or give them feedback on an idea they had. It's as easy as a mouse click. This is one of the reasons why these types of technology might actually decrease the amount of productivity that workers have.
Sure, it sounds good, but most people are unable to set ignore or shut out the incoming messages. Instead of having a solid chunk of their day in which they can think strategically about any one project, workers are pelted over and over by incoming requests for their attention. And in most cases, those incoming messages are clicked on within a few minutes of receiving them.
While the quick response is great for the person who asked the question, it can be devastating to the productivity of the recipient. Their focus becomes broken, their thought lines interrupted, and the quality of their responses are often sub-par because they had to shift gears so quickly from one thought or project to another.
And though the recipient may be happy with his/her fast response, the content of the message is often lacking. Instead of getting a response quickly and being able to act on that information, email creates a communication vacuum; People want to send quick emails, and thus end up excluding necessary information or clarifications. The result is a string of emails that can take five or ten minutes for a complete conversation to take place (after all, you have to think of your response, type it, send it, wait for it to be read, understood, and then the other person has to do the same).
In the scheme of things, five or ten minutes isn't that long, but compared to what can be accomplished face-to-face, it is exceedingly slow. When two people take the time to talk to one another in person, they gain many benefits. They are able to clarify responses on the spot, they can brainstorm new ideas with one another, and ultimately come to a decision about what needs to happen. This give and take also develops trust on a staff; not necessarily friendship, but trust in one another's skills and abilities to get the job done.
New technologies are great for transmitting large amounts of data and documents, but for decisions and task requests that may require clarification, in-person conversations may still beat out all the best technologies.
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