Imagine a workplace without emails. Where we picked up the phone to schedule meetings, ask for a favour or talk through strategy. This will be my reality for a week, and it makes me extremely uncomfortable.
For an introvert growing up in an increasingly on-demand economy this is a normal reaction. Technology has made it increasingly difficult to hide. For the past 15 years I’ve been texting, IM’ing, Facebooking, Snapchatting and Insta messaging. I’ve been conditioned to treat calls with immediate suspicion. Why are they calling me?
But while that might be normal for my generation, that doesn’t make it right. And I’m determined to try and change that – for the benefit of my career, and to rid myself of countless unnecessary emails.
To break the social disconnect
Social media has made stalking socially acceptable. Take for example WhatsApp whose ‘last seen online’ feature. She was online 10 minutes ago. She’s seen my text. So why isn’t she answering? I feel on-demand all the time and if I try to disconnect I feel extremely guilty.
Every now and then I try to actively switch off. I’ve had to teach myself to ignore the glaring red notifications across all my apps – my Whatsapp currently stands at 21, my Mail at 28,000. When I’ve consciously made the decision to go offline, a phone call brings me crashing back into reality kicking and screaming. In my mind, nothing good ever comes from a phone call. It’s jarring and disruptive.
Why don’t I just answer and say ‘I can’t talk now, can I ring you back later?’. I can’t be rude to a salesperson. I can’t ignore my best friend. And I definitely can’t say no to my mother. I guess I’m just too nice. But I’m hoping after this week I’ll have learned a crucial social skill – learning to communicate more effectively.
We don’t talk anymore
The problem with all of this, I’m quickly realising, is that my generation don’t talk anymore and it’s having serious repercussions for our careers. Constantly choosing email over phonecalls is leaving my inbox a minefield and an absolute chore to manage every day. Email is a highly unproductive way to communicate but we’re obsessed with it. Some profess email’s death, and others are promoting a boycott altogether – to some success. But as millennials begin to dominate the workplace, the workplace culture is evolving with it.
While it makes me incredibly uncomfortable to rely solely on phonecalls for a week, I think it’s a better way to work. It can be quicker to pick up the phone and ask for something than hover around your inbox waiting for a response. It’s also easier to build relationships with colleagues. Humour and sarcasm often don’t translate well through email.
So for the next week I’m going to put phone calls to the tes. I’m only going to check my emails at 9 and 5. Phonecalls will be my sole mode of communication between those times. If my phone rings I have to answer it.
What I’m expecting
I’m expecting my phone to ring more. I’m expected to be less distracted and focused. I’m expecting to actually be able to segment my days into blocks. Monitoring my email is a default mode for me. Have a spare minute – check my email. Especially if I’m waiting on confirmation. I then get led down the garden path on three other tasks and my time blocks go out the window. Most of all I’m hoping that I’ll be able to say ‘no’ more, and without guilt.
Calls might are disruptive. But there’s no denying that they build relationships. There’s personality in a phonecall. There’s humour. There’s soul. Unless you actually know the person, emails just aren’t the best way to do this. For that you really can’t beat a phonecall, and I’m hoping to learn to love them again.