Should you call? Text? Video conference? How to choose communication methods during the pandemic.
Author: Bobbie Burgess
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the way many work environments operate. For jobs that lend themselves well to working from home, all communication has suddenly become digital and virtual.
More emails, phone calls, and texts are being sent than ever before. More video conferences are being scheduled than we were prepared for.
As a result, some of us may now experience some level of anxiety around the thought of choosing a mode of communication appropriate for the task at hand. Others may just cling to what we're most comfortable with, such as email.
However, each form of digital communication has a time and a place when it's best utilized. Knowing when to execute a certain type of digital communication will make you, and your team, more productive, professional and effective.
When deciding whether to call, text, email or video conference, here are two questions you should consider:
1. How sensitive is the material, both in terms of time and content?
Not all messenger apps are created equal... especially in terms of privacy or security. While most popular platforms are built around some of level of security and, as a consumer, you have some control over your privacy settings, nothing is one hundred percent error-proof.
Therefore, if what you are sending or saying is something of high sensitivity, it probably would be better to consider an encrypted email message or messaging app. If you want to know more about your company’s security settings, speak with your IT department about truly encrypted messenger apps (e.g. Signal, Wire, Wickr or the decentralized, blockchain-based Session) or email services (ProtonMail, Tutanota, etc.).
Otherwise, if your content is of average sensitivity, a phone call would be best unless having a written record is important.
If 'written' proof is required then I would suggest an email or text depending on how detailed the material is for your project.
If you need a quick resolution to a problem, knowing how and when to reach the desired individual will be key. If you need to speak with your manager about an urgent manner, but you know they only check their email three times a day, don't send an email.
If your manager responds to telephone outreach frequently, you should consider placing a call to them.
Now, if the person you need to speak with is frequently unavailable, a plan B would be to think about leaving a message over a messaging app or an email. But again, if the matter is urgent and you want them to respond soon after they are available, pick the communication method they would check most often.
2. How complex is what I'm trying to convey?
If I was in the office, would I do this over email, would I call, or would I visit the person at their desk?
This question is critical.
There's nothing worse than spending 10 minutes texting a conversation that could have been handled in 2 minutes over the phone. There is a lot that can be lost in translation through texting or email, so consider the entire thought you need to present before you share.
This will reduce the confusion and frustration amongst the identifiable parties.
Email and texting
Email is ideal for low to mid-level information that will be important for others to easily reference later since email messages can be easily organized. But just because there is no character limit on email messages...
Does not mean everything should be handled over email.
When introducing new concepts or initiatives with many moving parts, a meeting via a video conference would be best so that you can present a slideshow along with your presentation. Think about it, would you rather receive and have to read a long, detailed email or would you rather hear it first with a visual aid and then receive a summary email afterward?
Some may opt for the long email but, in reality, it is not the most effective tool for the task. It opens up the possibility of multiple reply-all emails full of questions and answers that overlap and negatively affect the organizational structure and workflow.
For conversational matters that will have a good amount of back and forth, a chat room within a messaging app or group texting is the perfect method. Remember, chat rooms are not for complex matters. But for a quick question or to speak with people over the course of the day that have conflicting schedules, these methods work great.
Video conferences and phone calls
Do you ever think to yourself, “Dang! I wish I could have this person at my desk so they can see what I can see?”
A feature of many video conference platforms is the ability to screen share. It can be used with or without audio and video. Many enterprise communication platforms now offer that screen share functionality as a part of their service.
Using screen share in conjunction with, or separately from, video is an effective way of virtually inviting someone over to your desk. If video is not necessary, but the content is lengthy in nature, a cell phone call over a messaging app or standalone is a choice to consider.
Hopefully, these tips provide some choices that will help release any anxiety you have surrounding choosing which digital communication tools is best for your specific task.
Written by: Bobbie Burgess
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