When a phone call is better than an email

January 27, 2013

A colleague in my team returned from maternity leave a few weeks back. She requested permission to do teleworking for some time to allow her to take care of her infant. Fortunately, the office has a policy on teleworking. I was asked if it was fine with me as her direct supervisor. I agreed without any hesitation. When the matter came up for a discussion and I was asked if the work would not suffer in such an arrangement. My answer was short, “even those who sit in the office next to me, communicate more through emails. She will do the same from home.” It was agreed and the arrangement worked perfectly well. We even extended the teleworking arrangement for some more time.

I often wonder if emails should remain the main channel of communication by colleagues working in the same office. I have seen several situations where one email leads to a chain of communication, very often undesirable. Colleagues ask clarifications, write long mails to emphasize upon their point of view or seek clarifications. Some write simply to show that they also exist and work in the same office. It is often totally inefficient and a waste of time for all. It is also not good for inter-personal relationships. In most cases, going across to a colleague to have a face to face talk or a phone call would be more useful. It will take less time and will be much more productive.

One of the basic lessons in communication is to use the right medium for communication. We have just entered into a new year and this is my first post of 2013. It is time to try some new things. You may perhaps call it a new year resolution still, if you like. Talk to your colleague(s) before writing an email or replying to one. Better to go across and see him/her, if possible. It will help. It will enhance efficiency and will also improve relationships at work.