In recent years, there has been a swift shift towards messaging as the preferred mode of communication, with the number of phone calls steadily declining and discontent with email growing. As cited in a previous blog post, Americans aged 18-29 send and receive an average of almost 88 texts a day, compared to just 17 phone calls. A 2011 Pew Research Center study found that a third of Americans prefer to communicate by text: we’d be surprised if the proportion isn’t greater by now.
Many people, such as MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle, lament this change in interpersonal exchange. “The complexity and messiness of human communication gets shortchanged,” Turkle says. “Those things are what lead to better relationships.” While people with opinions similar to Turkle’s may have a valid point, there are many times when sending a message is objectively advantageous to calling, especially at work.
We’ve listed six cases where messaging definitely trumps calling in the workplace.
When your message is very short
There are times at work when you need to be brief. Not every message requires a full-length conversation, and if you have something very quick you want to get across, it makes more sense just to send a text. Barking out something quickly over the phone and hanging up comes across more curt than efficient.
When you’re going into a meeting
Needless to say, if you’re running into a meeting, you are unable to take a phone call. And unless you need to have an in-depth conversation about something, a message sent will be a fine substitute for the time being. Of course, there is some frustration around coworkers reading emails or messages during a meeting, and we do not advocate continuing Lua conversations on the side while a meeting is in progress. However, it is gaining growing acceptance especially amongst the younger workforce today that discreet communication is the best way to receive something urgent without rudely interrupting a meeting by speaking or leaving.
When there aren’t enough hours in the day
We all have busy schedules, and occasionally (or regularly) you’ll run into one of those days where you physically don’t have the time to tackle everything on your plate. There is simply no time to waste talking on the phone when you could be quicker and more efficient with a message. It is also difficult to multitask when you’re in a phone conversation: the added attention needed to manage the tone of your voice and the pressure to respond in real-time demand complete focus over the phone.
When you need to think before you speak
As addressed in a previous blog post, messaging introduces some breathing room to process the information you’re getting and responding to it in a thoughtful manner. Introverts, as Susan Cain writes, would find this extra-appealing. No one likes being caught out saying something foolish or false, yet phone conversations subtly exert pressure on participants to respond in real-time. Messaging makes a conversation, especially one in which participants have to be sensitive about their tone and words, a much less stressful experience.
When your job demands discretion
In several lines of work, speaking on the phone is taboo even though communication still has to be maintained to work effectively. The best examples would be customer service roles (such as roving hospitality staff) where the customer experience can be disrupted by a service staff conversation, or personal security, where speaking on the phone or even into a ear piece is the easiest way to let others in on the conversation. (Even journalists fear being misquoted by eavesdroppers around them.) In such situations, messaging brings absolute discretion, especially because of the privacy of the smartphone screen.
When you’re in public
More and more jobs today require workers to be on the move constantly. The increase in distance of commutes between home and office the office. Avoiding phone conversations in public benefits not only the speaker, but also the listeners and the people around the speaker. For the speaker, being somewhere noisy means you’ll have to strain your ears to follow the conversation. And to the person on the other side of the line, the same noisy environment translates into unpleasant background noise. And be it on the bus, train, or even on the plane, people do not like having others around them on the phone.
We’ve definitely not covered every scenario in which messaging is better than calling at work. When do you prefer to message than to call? Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!