There are a lot of interoffice challenges businesses experience on a daily basis as a result of poor communication practices. Over time these challenges can build up a lot of unnecessary tension. Monica, our chief creative officer, sums up a common problem: “I know you believe you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is NOT what I said.”
Clean and clear communication is vital not only to keeping the peace between you and your clients but also to ensuring a happy and healthy work environment for employees. To help improve communication in your office, we’re sharing 5 tech solutions we use in our office for smooth sailing.
We’ve all been through the painful group project experience at some point along our educational path, and I’ve honestly never heard anyone say that they love working on group projects. But why do they get such a bad rap? The biggest problems usually stem from individual group members not stepping up to take responsibility for their share of the work. As it turns out, school really was preparing us for the real world; for a lot of us, earning a living depends on our ability to successfully complete group projects and collaborate with other employees to achieve business goals.
A well-implemented project management system can make these collaborations much easier when used to keep project tasks, documents and individual responsibilities organized. Everyone on the team will be well aware of their duties and you won’t have to deal with hearing the excuse that somebody didn’t know they were supposed to do something.
We personally like to use ActiveCollab to manage our projects and assign tasks to each employee. Everyone involved on a project knows exactly when it’s their turn to step up and contribute to the end goal.
If you’re not quite ready to invest in project management software, consider using spreadsheets in the meantime to get a feel for how it could help communication flow. You can use Excel spreadsheets to outline tasks, due dates and the individuals responsible for each task. The key is to save the document on a shared drive so everyone has easy access to it. Better yet, you could use a Google Sheet in the company Google Drive so employees can access it even from remote locations.
As a writer, my continuous train of thought is what leads to the content you see on this page. Whether you’re in the middle of writing out an idea or in the midst of completing any other tasks that requires a hefty amount of concentration, constant interruptions can become extremely frustrating and hinder productivity.
So instead of barging into a co-worker’s office and disturbing their work, simply ask them for permission to talk using Google Chat first. You don’t have to write them a novel, it’s called “chat” for a reason. This is just meant to be a very non-intrusive way of giving them a heads up about what you want to have a conversation about, how long you need to talk for, and when you need to have the conversation.
Within Google Chat, you can update your status and change your availability settings so your coworkers know if it’s a good time to message you or not. If you don’t want to be bothered, you can close your “virtual door” by setting an “away” or “busy” status. You could also consider turning off chat notifications for incoming messages to help keep you focused on the task at hand.
Emailing with co-workers is a quick and easy way to stay in touch while also keeping a trail of conversations regarding a project. Use it to directly share to-do lists and notes from a client meeting so everyone can stay up to date on the details.
One thing people often forget when it comes to email is that tonality is in the eye of the beholder. You may write a message thinking it “sounds” one way while the recipient may read it completely differently than you intended. Remember not to email somebody when you’re heated up and frustrated. Take a few minutes to collect your thoughts and share them in a professional manner. Leaving snotty and aggressive correspondence is not going to improve the flow of communication.
Problems can often ensue when an email recipient claims to have never seen or received an email. By using Signals to track you emails, you can see if and when somebody opened your email, the number of times they viewed it, what they’ve clicked on within the email, and even if they’ve forwarded it to somebody else. Now, the intent isn’t to use Signals to catch somebody in a lie, but rather to have the confidence that your recipients did indeed see your message.
While regular old phone conversations can be quicker than explaining something via email, you still don’t have the luxury of pointing to something directly to illustrate what you’re talking about. When collaborating on an assignment or project with team members who aren’t in the office, tools like Google Hangouts, Go-to-Meeting and Skype make it easy to stay on the same page with visuals to go along with the conversation.
Even if you don’t want to show your face on camera, screen sharing can be very helpful at getting your point across to an employee working from a remote location.
Some video chatting and screen sharing programs offer a lot of additional tools, like shared drawing boards, to help emphasize certain points in your communication. But even if your video chat doesn’t include fancy annotating tools, you can always open up the Paint program on your computer, paste in a screenshot of a document to the paint pallet, and mark it up while your co-workers watch your screen. Easy peasy!
If you haven’t noticed a pattern yet, Google has all sorts of great features to help improve communication within your office, and they’re free! With Google Docs, you never again have to deal with emailing files back and forth between employees, struggling to keep track of which one is the most updated and where revisions were made. Everyone can even work in the document at the same.
Consider using Google Docs as a way to document company processes for easy reference in case of protocol questions as well.