The following was originally published on GovLoop.com and can be found here.
It’s no secret that technology is everywhere. It’s constantly evolving and surrounding us, and, in a way, taking over our lives. We take our phones everywhere, outsource our dating lives to an app (or three), and email our bosses from the comfort of our beds.
The conveniences of technology make it possible to work on a project without actually talking to anyone, it’s true. But because there are so many advantages to using new technologies in the office, it can blindside us when the negative effects start to crop up, including less relationship building and more typing, emailing and virtual meetings taking place.
Technology in the workplace is definitely a gray area that has its own pros and cons, ranging from an ease of communications, to a lack of a strong team bonding in the office.
And while the advantages of being able to instantly message anyone in the office are definitely numerous, it is also important to balance that with actual face time. Keep in mind that messages can easily get misconstrued over online communications, and 93 percent of what makes communication actually effective is non-vocal indications, according to a recent UCLA study.
To maintain a healthy work environment, it’s essential to find balance between the conveniences of today’s technology and good, old-fashioned face-to-face conversations. Here are five tips to help you, and your office, not become completely void of human interaction:
1. Know your coworkers’ communication styles. What your mother told you in elementary school still holds true — everyone is different. We all have distinct personality traits and unique backgrounds that alter each of our communication styles. Learning about who in your workplace is more expressive versus who prefers to get their work done quickly and quietly can be a fun office activity, as well as a good learning tool for office communications. On that same note, if you know a coworker has a very driven style of communication, send them a quick note asking if they have a minute to chat. It will garner respect on both ends and make relations that much more healthy.
2. A little effort goes a long way. Introduce yourself to new coworkers, invite someone out to lunch or coffee, or initiate activities outside of work. Depending on your work situation, consider setting a goal to communicate with others in person or via video conferencing. The smallest attempt at reaching out to someone can go incredibly far to bolster office morale and improve company vigor.
3. Make your own rules. Helping to make your coworkers and employees feel like they can talk to you in person, and vice versa, is a crucial aspect in not letting technology get the best of us. Composing a few personal guidelines to follow in terms of office communications can help everyone overcome the temptation of just sending a quick email. For example, give yourself a rule of three. If an email correspondence lasts longer than three emails, pick up the phone! If you haven’t talked to a specific peer for a day or two, walk over to their desk. You know yourself better than anyone else (well, besides your mom or your dog), so you know when you actually do need to hunker down and do work, and when it’s time to go talk over a project or just catch up.
4. Listen well and listen often: There are (at least) two sides to every conversation, and you don’t want to hog the precious time you have to talk to an associate by blabbing about your dog’s latest attempt to destroy your new carpet. Listen to what your office mate has to say, hear them when the tone of their voice starts to sound a little low or a little sad. Be a friend when they need one, and do your best to understand them beyond just a workplace level. Truly connecting with someone makes the office a happier place but also will make the crazy times not seem as crazy.
5. Use technology to your advantage. Sometimes, if you can’t beat ‘em, you really do just have to join ‘em. And there will be days when it seems like you don’t even have the time to go to the bathroom or get a glass of water. So, yes, it is OK to instant message a fellow employee, or shoot a quick email to your manager. But when it seems that you’re chained to your desk, just remember that your personality can still roam free. Sending a quick message to your colleagues about work? Throw in a funny (appropriate) gif or ask them about their weekend. Use that opportunity to invite them to lunch or even just to ask when they’re free. Use technology to your advantage, and start to make connections whenever you can.
What advice do you have for finding the right harmony between new technology and personal communication in the office? Let us know below in the comments below!