How Technology has Changed Workplace Communications
It’s no surprise that developments in technology have resulted in significant changes to the way we communicate. We’ve all experienced changes to how we interact with friends and family, with many of the methods that we use to communicate on a daily basis having been introduced in the last 10-20 years. We’ve seen the introduction of text messaging, VoIP services like Skype, apps like Snapchat, multi-player games, and emoticons – and new developments are added almost weekly.
This phenomenon is not isolated to our personal lives. Communication is at the core of organisational efficiency, and technology has made significant changes to the way companies work too.
There are now a multitude of options to communicate with our peers, associates, teams, clients, and customers, from email to social media, instant messaging and more. These methods of communication have helped bring more efficiency and productivity to workplaces as they are faster, more direct and encourage greater collaboration.
Web conferencing or a simple Skype call can allow us to connect with peers overseas or interstate, and project management and workflow software allow real time interaction and updates, resulting in less face time requirements. Documents can be edited by multiple people, from various offices and in any country, and combining video with voice and screen sharing means that virtual communication has almost no limitations when compared to in-person communication. The days of lagging feeds and unstable lines are gone with the advent of high speed networks.
The developments to communication technologies have not only affected the way we interact, but they are also having an impact on lifestyle. The fact that there are so many tools available for employers and employees to conduct business and manage work allocations has resulted in a large increase in the levels of flexibility offered by companies to their workforce. The mobile workforce has become a very real segment in the corporate world and experts predict that it will only continue to grow, until eventually the global workforce becomes mobile. This all comes as a result of technological developments in workplace communications.
One of the challenges with this increased level of communication via technology is determining which method or tool is the most appropriate for any given scenario. This is something that comes with practice and familiarity of tools and situations. Many companies could benefit from outlining a communications policy that states when it is appropriate to use which platforms – for example, using email to share files rather than instant messenger, to ensure they are accessible when they are next needed. Once staff understand this fully, productivity tends to increase even more rapidly as information is always on hand, and communication lines are always open in one form or another.
With technology already having contributed to extensive change in workplace communications, the future could hold some potentially game changing developments. For example, more companies will become global successes as barriers continue to be broken down across borders. Video conferencing is expected to eventually outrank email as a preferred method of communication and unified communications will further extend communication capabilities within companies of all sizes.
A number of startups and large technology companies are focusing on innovations in the enterprise communications and productivity space. More fluid technologies, which would previously have only been considered for the consumer market, are being tested and implemented in large corporations, increasing the speed of innovation and improving all lines of communication.
With so much potential to instill real change in workplace communications, one could be forgiven for asking what the potential cost or downside of these developments might be. The concept of ‘always available’ staff could start to infringe on personal time and deadlines may become tighter due to the knowledge that productivity is far greater. Conversely, staff will be able to manage their time more effectively and be more flexible with their office attendance due to the increased options for mobile communication. It will be up to companies themselves to ensure that the benefits outweigh the potential costs.