“Pick a lane and stick with it!” That’s what my husband always says to me when I’m driving. Apparently, the fact that I’m always looking for the fastest and least congested lane drives him insane. (And it’s probably not the safest driving technique either.)
But in light of the plethora of communication platforms we have available to us now, do you not find yourself doing the same thing? Trying to figure out which platform works best for you? And the dilemma isn’t just for personal means of communicating, the same holds true for businesses as well.
Several years ago, if we needed to contact a coworker, we would pick up the phone and call or send an email. Today, we have ZOOM, Microsoft Teams, Google Workspace, Slack, and that’s just to name a few. Add to that the frustration of everyone having to learn a new platform at neck breaking speeds only to become frustrated with others who can’t catch on quite as quickly.
Suzanne Oliver, contributor to the Wall Street Journal, helps break down this dilemma by asking some experts about the strengths and weaknesses of some of the more popular platforms available.
Let’s start with email. An “oldie but a goodie”. One of the things I personally love about email is that I can always go back and find old emails that I’ve sent or received. This is a quick and efficient way to verify information or find something that needs to be referenced. As the experts point out, files can easily be attached to a message which makes it a great source for distributing information to clients and employees. However, if working in a group, email may not be the way to go. The whole “reply all” thing can sometimes cause confusion when not used…or maybe you didn’t want everyone in the group to read your comment and clicked it by accident….that can cause some serious problems.
Slack and Microsoft Teams are more informal than email and great for sending links, getting updates, or asking quick questions. The downside is that both are forms of direct messaging which means that communication within needs to be short. Most people also feel that if they receive a direct message, they need to respond immediately. This interrupts work flow and can be quite distracting for some individuals. One thing to keep in mind is that direct messaging is more like a “conversation than a file cabinet.” Messages are easily lost in long, fast moving discussions, and most of the time, they will be erased after a certain period of time.
ZOOM and other means of video conferencing have become imperative to keeping people connected and providing a way to still hold business meetings while social distancing. The biggest downside to video conferencing is that when you have a lot of participants, it can become distracting and even difficult to engage everyone in the conversation. And, hopefully by now, most everyone has figured out how to remove all of the cat filters from their screen. (If not, then ask the lawyer who went viral for his.)
And alas, we come to the old tried and true ….the telephone. When urgency is an issue, the best thing to do is pick up the phone.
I guess the bottom line is this….you have to use the platform your company tells you to use. But if given an option, remember that you won’t be communicating with yourself, others will be involved. So it’s best to make sure everyone is educated on the ins and outs of whatever platform is chosen, and then stay in their lane.