More social business; less sociable employees?
In a day and age where collaboration software is the go-to for entrepreneurs seeking a more communicative way of doing business, it might also be having another, more secondary effect on the way we fundamentally interact as human beings.
Data gleaned from a variety of workplace surveys has found that some seventy-five per cent of office workers would rather email or ‘social network’ a colleague than have a face-to-face conversation. Call me old-fashioned, but this isn’t just another transition from one communication method to the next (although there’s still nothing quite like receiving a hand-written letter from someone). This development signals an altogether far more alarming trend – with all this ‘social’, we’re (ironically) just not that sociable any more.
Maybe it’s a generational thing? After all, telling your 90-year-old grandmother you need to Skype her and screenshare some of your holiday snaps (which you’re also going to stick on Instagram and, if she wants, you’ll give her access to the Dropbox folder too) is not usually a good idea if you want to make yourself understood. On the flip side, however, the concept of sitting down over a cup of tea and slipping photos lovingly into a leather-bound album is now all but lost to history in favour of more ‘virtual’ means of communicating and sharing.
While the grandma-on-Skype example is a small tangent away from workplace collaboration, it’s easy to see how this type of behaviour is becoming so evident in every part of our everyday lives.
Freshbusinessthinking.com sees the arrival of the online collaboration era as being a totally positive experience for all concerned – storing all content in one place and allowing the collaboration surrounding that content to happen in the very same place so that external communication is minimised.
However, an article by Express.co.uk on the subject of workplace communication explains that not only have Skype and email become the default means of talking to each other, but people are also increasingly resorting to talking electronically as it gives them somewhere to hide.
A spokesperson from officebroker.com has backed this point up, stating that “many workers have become so comfortable sending emails, they have lost the ability to communicate as effectively in person and, as such, avoid doing so where possible”.
Being asked awkward questions or being cornered into taking on new tasks were two of the main reasons cited as to why many workers preferred to keep their distance from colleagues and clients, using email as a barrier to these issues.
Online collaboration and social networking may have appeared out of the idea of making us better connected and more efficient. While these goals have largely been achieved (a recent Manpower report claims that 97% of Executives see a more ‘social’ organisation as being a noticeably more productive one), maybe we’re sacrificing our ability to interact in person in favour of this alarming new default…