It seems that the working world is still hunting for the best office communication tools. Here's the proof we need more effective office communication tools: 19% of workers say that their time at the office is wasted with too many meetings, and 17% say that the biggest workplace distraction are other co-workers. While you shouldn't and wouldn't be able to minimize communication (good communication is the basis for great team work, after all), you can use a combination of tools to increase productivity and minimize distractions. When it comes to office communication tools, it's all about knowing what's the right time and place for using each of them.
Face to face
Pro: It's the most synchronous of communication tools. You get real-time feedback on what you are saying and you can read the other person's body language, which is said to be 70% of communication.
Con: It can often become a time-waster. For some people, it's hard to stay on topic. It can also bother co-workers who might have a hard time tuning you out. You can't really tell whether it's a good time to chat for the other person unless you have already scheduled a meeting, so you can be interrupting their work; when it comes to workplace interruptions, face to face communication can be a main culprit.
Best practices: Have a morning huddle with your team to catch up on what each person is working on. This will decrease the need (or the perceived need, at least) for face to face communication throughout the day. When you really need to communicate face to face, step outside of the quiet working area as a sign of respect to your other co-workers, and always try to schedule it so that it doesn't interrupt co-workers' workflows. Standing during your face to face can really cut down the time you spend in meetings.
Pro: It gives your employees the choice to respond at a later time and time to think about what they want to say. It's also easy to find info later on for reference, as it's all stored in your email. It's also one of the best tools for keeping in touch with your customers.
Con: The average office worker spends about a quarter of her day processing email. Because email is asynchronous, it can result in a back and forth that will cause your inbox to swell, and hours spent on getting through your inbox. Inbox zero is hard to achieve, if not impossible.
Best practices: Use email as scarcely as you can - try to use it only for very official communication and to send important documents. If it can be said over IM or face to face, don't email it. The last email I got from one of my co-workers was more than two weeks ago - and we communicate very well daily.
Instant Messaging (IM)
Pro: IM is really the star of office communication. It's name says it all: it's instant! It's really easy to use and synchronous. It wins over email because there's the notion of a presence behind IM. You can see if your co-worker is at his desk, or if he's stepped out. It can also be easily accessed from mobile device, so you can stay connected to co-workers even on your commutes. IM is really fast and direct, and it can actually make workers more productive. AOL found that half of the adults who used IM at work felt it made them more productive.
Con: Both users need to be logged in and using the same program. Although IM is part of a culture of connectivity for Millennials, other generations may find it hard to get into the habit of IM - especially if they are used to email and face to face. Also, it's kind of hard to find a reliable IM service that has it all. Here at Sandglaz we've tried a few, from Google Hangouts to HipChat. Right now we're trying out a fellow TechStars company IM - Kato. We love the ability to have different chat rooms and customizing the notifications for each chat room. It's going really well so far - we'll keep you updated!
Best practices: Because IM is meant to be fast and direct, feel free to use abbreviations in your communication. Set up different chat rooms for different areas of your business, and while you can allow all employees to see the chat rooms (it's important to keep transparency and let everyone know the direction the company is taking), encourage them to customize the notifications, since the developers do not necessarily need to know right away what's going on in marketing and vice-versa.
Pro: Video conferences are great for teams that embrace a working from home culture. It's basically the best replacement there is to face to face communication for remote teams.
Con: You really need a fast, reliable internet connection, otherwise the video conference can really become broken communication. For small office spaces, you might also have to step out of the office to take the video conference, since it might interrupt co-workers' workflows.
Best practices: If your team is embracing a working from home culture, then set up a time in the morning and afternoon to catch up on each others' progress and establish new milestones.
What are the communication tools you use in your office? Let us know in the comment section below.