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The Underestimated Value of Personal Interaction in a Digital Workplace

Working in modestly-sized space, in a texting-driven age, many of us experience a daily slew of e-mails consisting of “thx,” “see me,” or “let’s discuss,” often from a colleague five feet away. Needless to say, such communications seem efficient but, when aggregated over time, create an “Ethernet” wall that makes office life less personal, less human, less engaging and eventually less fulfilling. The importance of face-to-face communication is exceptionally relevant when it comes time to collaborate, even if the face-to-face is facilitated by technology. “Email brainstorms” and “group think” sessions are definitely timesaving, but relying solely on this type of impersonal dialogue is not the best way for all the best ideas to be heard; the passion behind them cannot be effectively conveyed through email chains. Especially in this technological age, there is no excuse for not having everyone around a table together – even Skype-ing colleagues in Tokyo allows offices to chat face-to-face in real-time with colleagues in Chicago. When personal touch is lost, time is not lost, but meaningful relationship building is. Technology has “lazyfied” the communications process and the outcome diminishes the effectiveness and efficiency of getting messages sent and received. Harnessing the power of face-to-face communication is key to harnessing the power of your workforce…keeping them happy, and working for you longer. We’re all operating at warp speed with jam-packed schedules, but taking the time to talk to one another provides an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships as well as improve work outcomes. Feelings and emotions cannot be conveyed easily in an abbreviated 140-character tweet or an email furiously typed out on an iPhone in the back of a cab. It might take less time to bullet-out the directions for a new project in an email to a coworker or text about how excited you are to start it, but the elation simply cannot be conveyed adequately. Walking down the hall to tell your employee how to do a project and how much you are looking forward to it is more meaningful to him or her, and will lead to a better product and employees who feel more valued and listened to. Taking the time and energy to communicate face-to-face is crucial in creating an office culture in which employees feel appreciated, respected and heard.

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