Have you fallen into the habit of sending e-mails to communicate with someone in your office — even if they are just a few steps away from you? Perhaps it is time to rethink your reliance on technology at work.
Although most people assume younger adults prefer texting and emailing over face-to-face communication, research has shown the opposite is true. In fact, studies show that many employees — in all age groups — prefer interpersonal communication in the workplace over more tech savvy modes of communication. Why is that? Electronic communication is prone to communication gaps and misunderstandings, whereas face-to-face communication offers greater clarity and immediate responses to any issues or questions that arise.
Too much technology also can have drawbacks in other areas, too. Research, for example, has shown that humans are terrible at multi-tasking. Whenever we try tackling multiple projects and/or tasks in one sitting, efficiency and productivity suffers. The reason is simple: our brains cannot handle the amount of information required to process many different assignments at the same time. We’re cognitively limited to maybe 2-3 mental tasks max at a time and once we push that boundary, our productivity and the quality of our work will suffer. Technology enables us to multitask in many different ways. Yet managing only one task or project at a time can lead to both greater productivity and efficiency. Just because technology makes it easier for us to multitask all day long, it doesn’t mean we should. Something to think about when going about your day and/or designing work processes.
If you’ve been in a college classroom lately, you might also have noticed most students on their computers, presumably taking notes. However, if students don’t perceive the lecture material to be valuable to their studies, then they might wander off to Facebook or other social media sites during class. The same thing can happen at work and something to consider when having meetings.
Ultimately, studies tell us that an office culture built on primarily digital means of communication could lead to lower rates of employee satisfaction and greater inefficiency. Alternatively, reducing your team’s over-reliance on technology and aiming for a more balanced mix of electronic and in-person communication can build a more connected culture.