I read a quote last week that I would surely butcher if I tried to recall word-for-word, but the overall theme of the quote was this:
People are not
required to be constantly available to you, or you to them.
And yet, there I sat at 8 AM on a Thursday morning with 57 notifications on my phone. By 7 PM, I had received a hundred work emails, 50 GroupMe notifications, 10 instant messages, dozens of texts, and a handful of phone calls to my cell (with another handful going to my work phone). My phone and work computer both simultaneously beeped, dinged, or vibrated for each of these. Last week I was in a meeting and I had to excuse myself because my phone would not stop vibrating. It was nothing urgent, just life–simple, daily notifications.
Why so many?
Because we consistently look for new ways to communicate with our employees. We, as employers, try to make their lives easier by making communication more accessible and efficient. We try to meet them where they are. Well, guess what? Maybe we don’t need to meet them where they are. Maybe where they are is a place that they should receive a little peace. If not peace, perhaps allow them time to focus. Add in an open work environment, and you just created the perfect space for distraction.
There is no doubt in my mind that we had the best of intentions when introducing and inventing all these new channels of communication. My problem with it all is that we never shut anything down. Instead of ending one communication method and starting another, we just start a bunch of new things. We pile and pile and pile. Then we wonder why people seem distracted, unable to focus, or lack execution when communicating. So how do we solve this? We invent another way of communicating.
Are you catching my drift?
By trying to solve the communication breakdown, we actually make it worse.
Effective communication is one of the most important factors when measuring success and workplace happiness. We are ruining it.
Here is what I think you need: Cell phone, text messaging, instant messenger, and email. Oh, and unless lives are at stake, there is nothing that can be solved at midnight that can’t be solved at 7 AM.
If we want our employees to work hard for us, we need to make sure we are giving them the proper tools. Yes, communication is important, but so is focus and quality work. We need to provide an environment that allows our employees to do really good work. We need to decide what we want from them.
Do we want our employees to be available in an instant at all times of the day and night? Or do we want employees who produce quality and focused work in a timely manner?
Guess what the answer probably is? Both.
We want our employees to strike that balance. As employers that means we should strike a balance as well.
Cool communication apps are super snazzy and make us look really hip.
But do they produce better work?