While email is a communication platform that’s not likely to disappear anytime soon for external communication, a number of solutions are making it an obsolete technology for internal communication.
So what’s taking the place of email when it comes to team collaboration? And what does the future look like for inter-office communication? The answer is driven in part by messaging technology, and how systems originally built for the consumer are now having an impact on the business landscape.
Group messaging clustered around social networks has quickly expanded, and apps are fast becoming a favorite way of communicating on mobile devices. That change is extending to the work world as well. In February 2015, Slack, an internal messaging and work collaboration tool, reported more than 500,000 users and dubbed itself the “fastest growing business app ever.” While many thought that quote was a bit of business promotional puffery, their growth in the following two quarters ended up supporting the claim. For professionals exhausted by an overloaded inbox, Slack is proving to be a Godsend.
Messaging is on the rise, so it’s no surprise to hear that employees feel email and the Internet are their most important work tools. According to a 2014 Pew Survey, 46 percent of respondents believe they are more productive when using email, the Internet, and their mobile phone. Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed believe these tools bring them more flexibility, while at the same time increasing productivity, with 35 percent reporting they worked more hours because of them.
The corporate communication space is rapidly evolving, and, in what feels like a very short amount of time, apps like Slack have taken over inter-office communications. Farhard Majoo of The New York Times believes that Slack may finally sink inter-office email.
“Yet despite email’s admirable endurance, it’s possible to envision a future in which email — remarkably — is supplanted by new tools that allow people to collaborate in big groups and force upon companies the sort of radical information transparency that many in the tech industry, at least, believe is essential.”
Clearly, the future of work is here; technology is having a major impact with tech tools already having a profound impact on our relationships with co-workers, executives, and customers.
Collaboration, Office Communication, and the Cloud
Applications like Google Drive and Docs, Dropbox, and other cloud storage tools allow employees to collaborate across the globe, and make the issue of failing hard drives a distant memory. When paired with a communications tool, such as Yammer, Skype, Jive, or Zoom, workers are able to “meet” at any time of day while collaborating on shared documents, eliminating mindless administrative tasks and the need to coordinate schedules through countless email chains.
The result? The growing remote workforce isn’t out of touch with office culture; and projects among teams, even those living in disparate locations, are completed seamlessly.
“I’ll go home, put my kids to bed, and then take the Hangout from my living room. And the person in India will be getting ready to go to work (8:30 a.m.), so he’s going to do the opposite. Before he takes his kids to school, he’ll go to a quiet place, and we’ll have our work meeting.” – Dr. Todd Carlisle, Google HR director.
The Trouble with 24-Hour Communication Tools
There is, however, a downside to all this connectivity. Workers using these communication methods may start to think they are on a leash—unable to truly leave the office behind and enjoy their personal lives uninterrupted by the pings of their smart phones. Notifications and other communications start to become huge distractions. That’s why it’s important for employees to take the time to unplug. Companies will see that setting up a policy for remote work is crucial for their employees’ well-being.
Maintaining Company Culture with Remote Workers
It’s not uncommon for remote workers to feel lonely or isolated because they are separated from their co-workers. Small talk and other socialization opportunities, which only occur in close quarters and help to build camaraderie, aren’t possible.
Some communication naturally needs to happen in person and can’t be done via technology. Bringing remote employees into the office at regular intervals helps foster feelings of being part of the team. Plus, recognizing your telecommuting employees’ achievements will also help them feel more connected with the office.
Telecommuting is changing the corporate culture in significant ways, as technology gives workers greater freedom and autonomy. Corporate leaders understand that if you’re not communicating with 21st century tools, your workforce is less agile, less responsive, and less effective. Consider GE CEO Jack Welch’s famous statement with your own inter-office communication in mind, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”