How many times have you walked into an office area and heard nothing but the clicking of fingers on keyboards and seen only the tops of people’s heads? Can you visualize the people that you send emails to? Do you regularly answer emails on your phone?
Think about the last time you were at a restaurant and walked by a table where people were on their phones texting, surfing, or playing a game and not interacting with others at their table. The use of cellphones during events with friends and family has become so prolific that a game has been developed to encourage interaction at the dinner table. There is only one rule for this game: everyone is required to put their cell phones in the middle of the table, and the first person to grab his or her phone has to pay for the entire check. Initiating something like this at the office may help increase communication.
Do an experiment at work: pick one day when no one in your area, department, or business is allowed to send internal emails. You will probably notice an immediate change in the quality of your communication; emotions and gestures that would be difficult to convey in email will be readily apparent in person. It may be an adjustment to get up and seek others out, but given time you will appreciate the immediate satisfaction you get by simply asking someone a question or receiving feedback face-to-face. No more being inundated with incessant email questions that clutter up your inbox and decrease productivity (read more on our past blog “You’ve got mail”).
An article from earlier this year details how an Australian media agency, Atomic 212, has eliminated all internal emails. The exception to that rule is for scheduling and inviting people to meetings using the Calendar tool. The agency’s next step will be to limit external emails to clients. Here is how the policy works for them.
At our office, we have an unwritten rule when it comes to email communication. If it takes more than three emails to answer a question or resolve an issue, we pick up the phone and call, or walk over to the colleague’s desk and have a conversation. In addition, doing a comment resolution session at a client’s site, making a ‘house call,’ allows for a more efficient and complete resolution to questions in a document. Not only do we increase productivity by visiting with the client, but in-person meetings allow us to observe body language and develop a better understanding of who our clients are and what they are looking for. The value of a face-to-face meeting cannot be overstated; by understanding our clients’ needs we can tailor our services to meet their requirements and establish long-term relationships that are beneficial to both parties.
In our business, we know that creating a document or a suite of documents is an interactive process. While some steps in the process can be completed by email, others are better accomplished face‑to‑face. It’s important to be aware that virtual client interaction is no substitute for meeting in person.