Email vs. Phone vs. In-person: What’s Best for Workplace Communication?


 

Face-to-Face Interaction

 

The ever-connected world we live in provides a lot more convenience than was offered even five years ago, but with that ease-of-access there have been a number of changes in the way we go about our business, both personally and at work. The convenience afforded by instant messengers and email make it easy to respond to an issue quickly but removes the personal interaction we had through a phone call or stopping by someone’s desk.

Sure, it can be argued that the heavy reliance on email has increased efficiency, but it has also built up a few challenges. One of the biggest challenges we have when we get away from face-to-face communication is how messages can become open to interpretation. Tone can be very difficult to interpret when you can’t hear the inflection of someone’s voice. How many times have you received a text message or email and you read it and thought ‘Why is this person so mad?’ when in fact, that’s just the way you read it. A lot of that can depend on the mood of the person who is crafting their message, but even more is on the recipient who is reading the message.

So how should you decide when it’s best to walk over to someone’s desk or simply send off an email? Here are a few tips that have proven to be effective in deciphering this very issue.

It’s probably best to have a face-to-face interaction with someone when you need to:

  1. Recognize and comprehend verbal and non-verbal reactions to whatever information is being communicated. Face-to-face interactions are the only method that allows both parties to fully convey their message and response by using body language and voice tone. Having these additional signals are critical to conveying complete understanding of the message and response.
  1. Create a deeper bond across a team or organization. When you stop by someone’s desk there is a greater likelihood that you could have a quick chat about something that isn’t work related. In moderation these help create cohesiveness, and help develop relationships within the office.
  1. Avoid or resolve conflicts. It has already been mentioned how important tone can be to a message and the difficulty that is encountered when deciphering tone via text. When you communicate in person you’re able to recognize the reactions you’re seeing and alter your tone and non-verbal communication to provide clarification.
  1. Integrate other communication methods outside of email. Email has easily become the go-to when it comes to office, and personal, communication. You can’t get away from it; it’s everywhere. Of course there is a positive to having such easy access to information at all times, but it also leads to fewer interpersonal interactions, which can lead to what feels like a disconnected workplace.
  1. Understand intricate projects and make decisions based on that information. Whether you’re an engineer or are working on the perfect pitch for new business, it can be very difficult to fully encapsulate complex details through written words alone. Having a face-to-face discussion means you are opening the door to greater understanding and allows all parties involved to provide feedback and questions for clarification.

Workplace communication has come a long way in regards to convenience and efficiency, but that doesn’t mean these methods are always the best option. So next time you’re faced with a situation where you’re not sure if your message is being properly conveyed, why not take the time to set up a face-to-face conversation to ensure that everyone is on the same page.


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