Have any friends and family questioning why you’re always referencing strange “you won’t believe what Stephanie just posted”-photos? First off, which one is Stephanie again? Secondly, I don’t necessarily care about Stephanie’s funny McDonald's fail all that much - or even at all. I do however have concerns over how your work has just become a concrete part of your private life; probably more than it ever should!
Fortunately we have been provided with solutions in the last few years: Online platforms for business related communication. Leaving the office doesn’t mean being out of the loop anymore as Dave Rocker suggests in his motivation towards the various benefits of online communication and management tools. Therein lies the opportunity and the many dangers of using such digital tools and the reason why it’s definitely worth asking: “Where do I draw the line and why?
”Strap yourself in, because this is an incredibly valuable topic - albeit a lengthy one.
Private Pleasure or Business Bench?
In rephrasing the aforementioned question it could be asked whether you’re simply sitting on a bench after hours and waiting to be placed back into the game. Or does your game end with you deciding what you’d like to be up to once your wages legally stop applying to your hours?
In South Africa the cross-platform messaging app, Whatsapp, has become an acceptable go-to communication tool for some companies. US companies in comparison make regular use of Facebook Messenger amongst colleagues as opposed to Whatsapp. Another question to consider is whether these primarily social platforms have become acceptable tools for business.
By any measure we can all agree that Whatsapp groups have become a nightmarish error in our ways and a subconscious wormhole to social anxiety. Your mental faculties are exposed to hundreds of sub-folders and feel responsible for avoiding the ‘this-message-has-been-read’ symbol otherwise known as the ‘time-bomb-tick’. Nobody needs that!
Even worse, business owners might fancy their company a 24/7 dedication which (insert scandalous hint of sarcasm here) “naturally” form part of an employee’s health and fitness goals or their responsibility while preparing food for their 2-year-old. Sure, everyone wants an overachiever, but overachievers should be compensated and not merely thanked. The old world is rapidly changing and it’s time for business owners to stop fighting the balanced lifestyle demanded by our future’s input/output model. The future is, very much, now!
While you might be spared an after hour special from your boss you may still be vulnerable to the socialite attack of those among your peers who consider it “entertaining” to share every photo of their night out with the office’s “fun working group”. Caution is advised as your partner may want to reconsider spending time with someone who responds more rapidly to their colleagues with emoticons than they spend time with their own partner.
As chilling as an invitation to a new chat group would be, there are even more serious implications in the wake of Facebook’s recent data scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. The reality is of such great concern that the departure of Jan Koum (CEO of Whatsapp) was covered by an ocean of media sources around the globe recalling Facebook’s purchase of Whatsapp in 2014. Speculation would suggest that the cold and deadly reach of an attack on privacy is, according to the disagreement between Koun and Facebook, sure to infect Whatsapp’s use of user data.
Know anyone you might describe as the Lord Of The Pings?
The ‘lord of the pings’ seems to live off of a constant stream of notifications ringing in the ears of anyone within a pencil throw’s distance. Unfortunately, no one seems to risk actually flinging the old lead and wood with confidence. Many choose to silence their notifications, but then, do they ever respect any requirement for time sensitive information? In addition - do they think it matters if they know their inbox is constantly filling up with potential attention seeking content?
This very conundrum leave many managers of the opinion that tools for communication are inter-dimensional black holes within which employees frequent and subsequently disappear. Thing is - they’re not entirely wrong. Switch cost is real and if you don’t know what it is then be sure to look it up. It comes down to your human capability to maintain your current track of work while opening up emails, taking phone calls or attending a meeting. Your mind undergoes a shift which, as with any computer (regardless how ‘super’), causes a delay in moving between tasks. These momentary lapses end up accumulating to a worrisome degree when calculated at month’s end.
Communication tools are not excuses however. There are those who argue that online tools require a considerable amount of work before they are adequate for office use. We are of the opinion that communication tools such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger or the more appropriate Slack should never be utilised as a substitute for managing your teams. There are other applications solely focused on management and should by no means be mistaken for ‘just another app with a different name.’
Slack sets a prime example for the utilisation of channels that can be topic, team or project specific. The way in which you set up your channels speak volumes about your capacity for management. Many writers reject Slack however, due to the potential setbacks discussed in this article. Our advice is to remember that a hammer is a hammer, but your personal capacity determines whether you hit your thumb from time to time in attempting to hit the nail on the head. It’s a tool for the recording of conversation and not a management app. Following up on important topics become an easily accessible breeze along with other instances such as ensuring you get someone’s word on paper with some context - should it ever be required.
3 Tips to utilise possibly dangerous tools
Step 1: Don’t Panic.
Our times are changing, so we best keep calm.Step 2: ‘Real time’ or ‘Log’? In a managerial position you must determine whether the platform you use will involve time-sensitive information and require real time responses or if the intent is instead to provide a log and ensure clarity. Elaborate sidenote: Two scenarios which we’d like to single out in the event that all relevant information is of critical importance:
1. Your work environment should allow for direct access to those in charge of the department relevant to the inquiry.
2. Your boss might not always be available - physically or mentally - which could lead to rapid-fire answers being spewed over a rushed phone call and a resultant loss of recollection on their part. The very nauseating “I never agreed to that” response which we’d all like to avoid. Communication tools thereby provide an excellent “In fact you did” opportunity - which not only gives your superior a chance to improve on their own approach, but keeps you in the clear when the decisions of others lead to either loss or delay.
Step 3: Limit your team sizes.
Dave touches on the implications of involving too many members in one group chat or channel which happens to reflect the approach of an agile environment where teams are limited to only 3-10 members. One exception to this rule would be the use of event-channels where the entire office can see what events various members of staff are interested in attending. This will encourage junior employees to attend the same events as senior level employees and directors.
JA. There you have it! Three steps to already improve on your online communication culture.
Conversation in its most natural state will always be necessary within an office environment. The switch cost of an employee who gets up for a fifth cup of tea simply because they can’t converse from their desk space is high and very much avoidable. Online tools for communication provide a solution that we should embrace during its growth pains in order to avoid being left behind once these platforms are perfected and in regular use across the spectrum of businesses we know today.These tools should however never be used as an excuse to replace our prerogative when a task demands it. We suggest to use both natural conversation and online platforms in combination for an efficient result. A final quote by Dave makes for both a powerful statement and sign off to this article -
“The transformation is unavoidable, and clearly has generated positive change for most businesses. To ignore this seismic shift in the way people work together is to be left behind.”
If this all sounds incredible, but you don’t even know how this is applicable to your business or where to begin in order to implement systems that improve your efficiency - be sure to contact us through our website or our Facebook page.
Kind Regards Johan Bronkhorst Co-Founder and Director at JA www.ja-culture.com