Picture the scene…
It’s a Thursday afternoon in July; a scorchingly-hot day and a scorchingly-hot client proposition lands on your desk. However, there are some technical questions that need asking. But who is available to help? You can’t be sure; you have a feeling that several key members of staff are on holiday or taking a long weekend, and your email calendar doesn’t tell you much – so you fire off an email to a few people and cross your fingers that you’ll get a response.
It’s the start of a new business quarter and you are making headway with a new project. But an issue has arisen and you need some clarity – however, as it’s a new project, you aren’t sure who to write to. You send an email out to a whole list of people and hope that it reaches the right person.
It’s a Monday morning and exceptionally busy in the office, but you’re trying to set up a meeting for later on in the day, so that you can obtain further information about one of your weekly tasks. You’ve tried calling but numbers are busy or unanswered. You send an email but aren’t sure if it will be read in time or if your colleagues are even at their desks.
Any of the above sound familiar? These are what we call ’emailed shots in the dark’, and the practice can be a real hindrance to efficiency within the working day.
Now, don’t get me wrong; messaging is not the best solution for all scenarios, but it should form the central part of a company communication policy. If something really is urgent (i.e. it’s business critical, or you need a response within a few minutes for fear of the opportunity disappearing), then you should use an immediate communication method – a telephone or physically visiting the person – I am sure they will appreciate the urgency and that you are acting responsibly. On the other hand, interrupting someone’s workflow for something that could be handled at any time within the next few hours (but at a time that fits with his/her workflow) can be very annoying for the recipient – so don’t be surprised if you are not met with a bouquet of roses at the other end. Unnecessary distractions can have a catastrophic effect on productivity: reports show that it can take up to 15 minutes for the affected individual to regain their focus. Multiply this by various people and several times a week, and it’s easy to see how it adds up over time. This is a prime example of a communication inefficiency that has a physical cost in the real world. And to lighten it up a little, if everyone in the office was physically in search of a colleague at any one time, no one would ever be found! :)
Although often unintentional, incorrect use of communication tools in the workplace can be very selfish. In general, each query only requires one answer, so ’emailed shots in the dark’ interrupt many people unnecessarily – in some cases when the issue at hand has already been resolved. Effective communication ensures that the correct, available person is contacted at the right time (for both the requester and the recipient), the issue is resolved within an acceptable timeframe, whilst noise and distraction levels are at a minimum. Anything else is a waste of attention, and in general, inconsiderate. In the real world, awareness of this can be found lacking…
A simple remedy
Introduce a real-time communication platform like Team Zeus to eliminate the ambiguities that enforce ’emailed shots in the dark’. You are able to increase team productivity in several ways:
- By allowing employees to see who is actually available. Our business messaging platform enables users to select ‘Busy’ and ‘Vacation’ statuses, all of which can be made specific (i.e. set to last for the length of a meeting or a vacation). Online users are displayed in a list which is prioritised according to availability – it couldn’t be simpler to decipher.
- By allowing employees to keep track of ‘issue status’. Rather than sending messages out into the ether with an email ‘CC All’, threads can be opened that include multiple users and the entire conversation is visible, ensuring that all responses can be tracked and that ideas are not duplicated. The problem becomes one that is ‘shared’ rather than ‘replicated’, encouraging productive discussion and thus a swifter resolution.
- By allowing employees to feel ‘visible’. Threads can be managed so that they are ‘open’ or ‘closed’, providing an accessible method of distinguishing which topics are still under discussion at the end of the day. This means that rather than returning to an overwhelming email inbox after a period away from one’s desk, the recipient is able to organise tasks very quickly according to which matters require urgent attention. In turn, it gives the employee creating the thread a sense of security: his/her message will not simply become one of many within an overflowing inbox.
- By eliminating the need for double work. In addition, when a query is resolved (closed), it’s closed for all – so no more double work (or trying to figure out what the status is in a long chain!).
- By improving mindsets due to increased transparency. Utilising a team communication app that’s built for business not only improves efficiency in the more obvious ways, it also instils a different philosophy: staff will feel closely connected by the real-time medium, and will feel more able to ‘reach out’ by virtue of knowing that an available ‘sounding board’ is but a click away. This will reduce stress, improve focus, and encourage teamwork.