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0 comments | Posted by: Terri on October 22, 2012 | Categories:
AnswerConnect’s 24/7 availability depends heavily on a flexible workforce. We fully embrace the concept of remote work; some of our employees work in the office, some work from home and some switch between the two depending on the day. With so much fluidity in the workplace, we depend on many channels of communication, frequently chatting, video conferencing, emailing or calling each other to collaborate. We’ve discovered there are times when a quick chat or email is perfectly adequate and times when it’s best to just pick up the phone. Below are the four most common forms of workplace communication and the best (or worse) times to use them:
When you should use it: Chat is the most casual of office communication and easily the most convenient. However, it’s also the most informal. Be sure you already have an established relationship with the recipient. Chat is best used for a quick question that can be answered in a sentence or two. We’ve previously posted about proper chat etiquette if you need a refresher.
When you shouldn’t use it: If you find yourself writing paragraphs of information, you may be better off sending an email or making a call. And, remember, text is only 7% of communication. If there’s even the slightest potential of a misunderstanding, you shouldn’t be chatting.
When you should use it: Video conferencing has all the highlights of chat with the added benefits of visual cues and the warmth of a face-to-face meeting. It’s perfect for meet-ups between dispersed team members or meeting a co-worker/client for the first time. Putting a face to a name, especially amongst remote workers, can strengthen a sense of community.
When you shouldn’t use it: If you’re conversing with more than five teammates, it may be easier to share everyone on an email or cloud-based document. It becomes difficult to moderate a video chat when too many people become involved, and video/audio quality can start to degrade depending on the software you’re using.
When you should use it: Email is probably the most utilized form of communication, in or out of the office. If an immediate response isn’t required, it’s perfect for relaying general information while keeping a record of the conversation for later review. Email also gives the recipient a chance to reply when it’s most convenient for them, rather than forcing you to catch them when they’re in.
When you shouldn’t use it: Managing Partner at Kwittken + Company Worldwide, Aaron Kwittken, offered this advice in an interview with Fast Company, “Anything you have to think twice about it, anything you think might be sensitive, anything that you think requires your relationship skills requires a phone call instead of an email.”
When you should use it: Sometimes, the personal touch of a phone call is the best option. A phone call offers an option lacking in chat or email: the ability to listen. Always make a call when conveying a complex subject, when emotion is involved or when a two-way conversation is high priority.
When you shouldn’t use it: If you just have a quick question or need to divulge a short piece of information, it’s more convenient to the intended recipient to just send a quick message over chat or email. If the recipient has follow-up questions, they can call you.
No matter which form of communication you choose, remember: it’s all about connecting in a meaningful way. Be clear in what you’re trying to convey and remain open to replies. Being willing to maintain a dialogue is integral to any successful conversation.
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on May 15, 2012 | Categories:
Five years ago, AnswerConnect was at a crossroads. We had outgrown our small office, spilling over into the entire building. We considered expanding into another office building, perhaps in another city, but as CEO Michael Payne puts it, “The model of having large office complexes filled with people was unscalable and extremely resource intensive. While we knew of no direct competitor in our space offering work at home at that time, we believed that a remote model was more sustainable, more competitive, more scalable, and much more in line with our underlying core values.”
Lead Business Support Associate, Geneva Lieser, was the guinea pig. “It was an exciting thought to work from home. I was all for it,” she recalls. “The savings on commuting alone was huge, 1.5 hrs of my time each day, and about $200 in gas per month.”
The IT team put together software and a computer for Geneva to take home. (That’s another thing we’re really good at: Software not available? Build it!) “It was slow call-volume wise, there were only a few accounts on the new system. Time in between calls was spent chatting with IT on issues I was experiencing, and having software updates added into my computer a lot. It would be hard to count the number of screenshots taken during that period.” Her diligent reporting and testing helped make a solid system for remote associates to work and receive support.
Geneva’s favorite parts of working remotely? “Sweats, waking up 30 min before a shift, not eating out or driving to the office, playing with the critters that inhabit our home on breaks and lunch (they are not allowed in the office of course). Working from home is very addicting.”
Five years later, Geneva’s sentiments are echoed by nearly 300 remote workers taking calls, replying to chats and following up on leads. Her experiment was a success, allowing AnswerConnect to expand both the business and the employee pool significantly. Remote work gave employees the flexibility to work from anywhere in the state and schedule their time around school, kids or other commitments that would normally be obstacles to full-time employment.
“Many people told us that work-at-home would fail because people would not work.” Michael says of those first few days. “In all large groupings of people, be they schools, cities, or companies there will be a few who abuse the rules. However, most people are fundamentally well-intentioned and hard working. Our experience has been that people work just as effectively at home as in an office.”
That decision to trust in the inherent goodness of employees’ intentions continues to pay off. The number of employees working from home is climbing in step with a long list of satisfied clients, enough to make us consider hiring remote workers in other states. We’ve built a thriving virtual community where associates can get instant support—or just chat with fellow work-from-homers—and regularly put together live social events to give co-workers face time. This teamwork combined with our always-innovating IT department adds to AnswerConnect’s unique edge over its competitors.
Geneva couldn’t have put it better: “We all work shoulder to shoulder—remotely—in a really great way.”
Do you have one of those change jars for your end-of-the-day pocket change? There’s one on my kitchen counter. When it fills up, we’ll take it to a coin-counting machine, see how much we have and splurge on something fun.
What if you could do that with time? What if you could save up 55 minutes each work day—the average amount of time each U.S. worker spends commuting to and from work, 260 days out of the year? To that, add 45 minutes spent getting ready each weekday morning, and you’ll end up with approximately 18 days’ worth of saved time. That’s a generous vacation’s worth.
In his book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler points out that “In a country that has been moaning about low productivity and searching for new ways to increase it, the single most anti-productive thing we can do is ship millions of workers back and forth across the landscape every morning and evening.”
Computer networking giant Cisco reached the same conclusion in their 2009 Teleworker Survey, a study of company telecommuters. Of the 2,000 employees surveyed, “69% reported higher productivity when working remote, and 75% said the timeliness of their work improved.” Cisco reported an overall increase in efficiency just by giving employees the option of working from home.
Pinpointing areas of increased productivity in a distributed workforce is easy. Conversations at the water cooler, for instance, take a surprising toll on time. The average worker admits to wasting two hours out of every eight-hour workday. Twenty-three percent of 10,000 people surveyed blamed socializing with co-workers.
Telecommuters work alone, in theory, but not in isolation. Free or inexpensive web-based tools–Skype is just one example–fosters collaboration between workers. Employees gain the focus of solitude and the flexibility of instant communication, and they’re less tempted to share workplace gossip or fantasy football stats.
This flexibility extends to scheduling too. On-site employees are constrained by office hours. Working outside the office, they’re able to maximize their time by choosing to work their most productive hours, regardless of the stereotypical 9-to-5 daytime work shift.
This may seem like incremental savings, but they’re all minutes in the time-jar. Just as my family is always surprised when we cash in our spare change, I’m sure Cisco was surprised to discover that telecommuting saved them $277 million annually in productivity.
To many workers, their commute may seem like a necessary inconvenience. In fact, given the efficiency of distributed work (and the availability of tools enabling it), a commute is becoming a distinctly unnecessary inconvenience–one that adds up.