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A little less conversation?

Will phone boxes like these become a thing of the past...?Recently I wrote about organisations getting ready for the surge of Generation Y and the exciting technological advances that they bring with them. This time I send out a cautionary message and write about some research that caught my eye and left me feeling a bit concerned about what the future holds.

A new study by communications business Daisy Group of 2,000 office workers, found 53 per cent of workers prefer to conduct the majority of their business over email wherever possible. 

Perhaps the statistic that alarmed me the most was that one in six people chose to ignore all incoming calls on their landline at work. Reasons highlighted included being too nervous to use the phone, not knowing who was calling and not wanting to be caught off guard.

This was more marked in the 18-24 age bracket with younger employees identified as being the most reluctant to pick up the work phone with a third of 18 to 24 year olds saying they avoided using the landline at work altogether, preferring to interact over email instead.

I can see the reasoning behind this. The audit trail email allows, can mean that conversations can be kept, recorded and pulled up again in a dispute or need for clarification.  Composing your response to an email allows you to think about the content, re-read through the content and ensure your message is clear. Having someone on the other end of a phone line or sat in front of you doesn’t allow this - once the words leave your mouth, they’re out there, and you’re required to answer their questions immediately without having the time to think through your response.

Generation Y theorists and research have shown us that that younger workers are technologically aware and comfortable with the use of technology, so part of me isn’t surprised by this. However, for me it raises the question of whether this avoidance of human contact is a worrying sign of the future of the workplace. I have always and continue to believe that people are a workplace’s greatest asset. People talking to people are how ideas are created and developed. It’s instant and for me it always feels more personal – there’s also too much room for misinterpretation by e-mail as you can’t convey the tone of your voice. How can you really build relationships effectively by e-mail?

I’m not suggesting that organisations force employees to use telephones if they’re not comfortable doing so. What I would suggest is that organisations don’t turn a blind eye to how their employees are communicating with each other, clients and customers but ensure that the most effective communication method is being used and not the one that causes the least distress. 

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