It takes a lot of pieces, moving in the same direction, to run a successful business. In office communication, it’s critical to ensure everyone is on the right path, there are no blockers and everyone knows what they need to do.
Communication between departments and all staff can take many forms: people talk in person, phone their extension, send emails to each other or online through chat windows.
In theory, workplace communication apps like Slack, Yammer, Voxer, Salesforce Chatter or Facebook at work are supposed to help with office communications. These office chat apps are a social network for your business. Teams can collaborate; everyone in a specific group can follow messages and be kept up-to-date. They can help communication efforts of virtual teams.
In reality, the problem is that these apps produce a culture of immediacy and distraction.
As an example, the five people in my Research Department communicate through Slack. They are all part of a research channel and certain individuals are communicating together on a specific project.
My research team has very detail oriented tasks of reading through large legal documents and analyzing investment risks of different franchise systems. These documents are longwinded and sometimes these projects are tedious. Data extraction on any document can take an hour or more and they’re mapping complex ideas and thoughts to create a report and synopsis.
In comes my sales team or IT team messaging someone from research on Slack needing a ‘quick’ answer on a question. To my research team, the answer is simple. And giving it takes little effort or thought. But the impact of shifting focus from the analysis to the inter-department communication is significant.
Think of the last time you bought a product from Ikea – with the complicated instructions and pieces all over the floor. As you’re building it, the phone rings. Your mind shifts; you answer the phone and spend 30 seconds talking. You hang up and go back to building the product…but where were you? How long does it take to get your head around the steps again?
Disruptions in work productivity can cost a company thousands of dollars. Even five minutes per day, over an entire department can cost me $10,000 per year. It might not seem like a lot to some but it’s a week’s worth of advertising for me.
Office communication apps condition people to ask without thinking. Writing an email takes effort but firing off a quick instant message doesn’t. This is exacerbated by the fact that most of my younger staff communicate with slang messages through Slack, like they would text message. This is something they would never do through email. Email is still considered formal.
Wanting a quick answer on something and asking through a workplace app is no different than knocking on the door or peeking your head into the office. It’s a distraction.
It’s easy to say let’s set up policies and workflow processes. However, people are people. Everyone is accountable to themselves and their boss. Sometimes employees feel that at that moment they need an answer and messaging someone seems so discreet, so they’ll ask.
The employee on the receiving end is disrupted. Focus has shifted from their task. It’s not even about the response but the shift in focus and five minutes’ worth of productivity lost.
Office communication apps are just like any other tool in the office. They are there to facilitate and speed up productivity. But if used ineffectively, they can drain productivity.
To help combat disruptions in the workplace, we’ve put measures in place to ensure everyone thinks before communicating on Slack. We expect everyone to write full sentences, proper spelling and no slang. This process of putting thought into their communication before sending, with the understanding that disrupting someone else’s work could be affecting that person’s productivity, ensures that communication on our workplace app is effective.