This post was prompted by two infographics related to stress, digital interruptions and the ‘fear of missing out’ FOMO – they are at the bottom of the blog.
Working on Communication
We recently worked on a project for a client involving organisational change and central to this was the need to improve communications. Surprisingly though we had to work with the management team to help them go back to basics and reinforce face-to-face communications before we could move forward with the project. Why? Well digital interruptions and email in particular were not only causing productivity issues they were also causing people stress
What is Stress?
Our modern working environments can cause us stress; the internal hassles, deadlines, and demands at work can put people under pressure. In small doses, this stress can actually motivate us and help us perform. But when stress becomes a constant state and you are permanently running in a hyper active mode, you pay the price mentally and physically.
Stress is a normal physical reaction to situations and events that make you feel threatened or upset in some way. When you sense danger, perceive or actual, your body’s defenses kick in and create “fight-or-flight” reaction, otherwise known as the stress response.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you and it is there to help stay focused, energised, and alert. In critical situations, stress can save your life – giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to runaway from danger.
What Causes Stress
There are many situations that cause stress such as an exhausting work schedule or a rocky relationship, but the reality is often individual and can be anything that puts high demands on you. Each persons response can be different and even positive events such as getting a promotion or buying a house can lead to stress.
What We Did
When we audited how people were communicating there was far too many emails being sent accounting for 72% of all communications; the remaining being 12% meetings 9% phone calls and 7% social media. There were useful conversations happening though, by the coffee machine and during lunchtimes!
Symptoms of these communications were:
- reacting to emails straight away – no prioritisation or set periods
- lengthy emails with people copied in multiple people copied in without need
- in effective ways of filing and managing email workflow
I am sure this is familiar territory for many businesses. Digital interruptions can take an extraordinary amount of time and cause people to lose their train of thought and this accumulates over the period of a day.
We took it back to basics reinforce face-to-face meetings over a 3 month period, built in the use of Skype calls, implemented Yammer, increased the use of short meetings for high priority focus and prioritised personal communications over lengthy emails (full guide and policy evaluated and delivered). The result has been as much about cultural change as it has been about communications. People are actively building relationships, managers are getting back in touch with their people and people know what is going on. This is the first phase of a year long project.
Here some tips:
- Make a policy – have a clear, well-defined policy for how you manage emails e.g. use for financial information, actions lists, clients…prioritise need to know over nice to know. Always remember to prioritise customer communications.
- Change the culture – set clear guidelines for meetings, catch-ups and how to follow up.
- Yammer or alternative – use Yammer or other sources to provide and allow people to easily have shorter, less formal, than email chains, and reduces overlap and duplicated effort.
- Set a time – set aside specific times for email viewing each day.
- Develop a system – take the time and effort necessary to develop a workable email management system e.g. how to prioritise and store in organised folders, flag those that are important and need to follow up…., train people (management tier) and make it a part of the way we do things around here.
- Change the culture – drop in or phone colleagues more for larger organisations use skype or internal video calls.
- Support – trying anything new means you need people to help and support each other, managers to be trained and give people time to get used to a new system, reinforcing their confidence and their behaviours.