The Importance of In-Person Communication

By, 11/30/2011

As you may have read on this blog before, Fisher Investments’ offices are designed in an open seating environment, where we’re able to freely communicate without cubicle walls or doors. After a long enough time working here, it’s easy to take the advantages of an open layout for granted, though. However, I was recently reminded of its advantages by an article in the Harvard Business Review. The piece highlights the importance of in-person workplace communication in the age of email and social media. Although the volume of email communication has risen in business usage, there’s evidence to suggest the quality and efficiency has suffered.

The piece highlights several downsides to email or social media communication. 1) Getting EQ (emotional intelligence) across to the recipient is difficult. With an in-person conversation, unless you’re the most stoic of people, it’s almost a given. 2) Email tends to elicit reactive responses. Although a recipient has more time to think through a response, most often people don’t and instead respond impulsively. 3) Email often prolongs debate, where a simple conversation could clear up issues much more quickly.

Working in an open-seating environment isn’t always comfortable at first. It takes some getting used to—dealing with personal phone calls for instance. But over time and with practice, it becomes a valuable resource. If you’re just starting out your career and happen to work in an open environment, try establishing a regular practice of visiting someone’s desk to chat instead of sending an email. It’s a great way to become a more effective workplace communicator—no matter the medium. Meeting with co-workers and having regular in-person conversations means you foster more cordial relationships than you might otherwise. And that means even when you do have to resort to email, the intent of your messages are less likely to be confused.