Productivity

Why expressing emotion really matters in messaging

More than words

As humans, we need real interaction to bond and build trust. Today, we also rely on the digital extension of our relationships to keep the conversation flowing. In an age in which economies and friendships span oceans and time zones, we certainly need some sort of virtuality.

emotion

Audio and video have become common ways of interacting with each other already. Yet written communication still remains the predominant way of keeping in touch across geographies and cultures.

According to Albert Mehrabian, in an ambiguous situation,

(…) words account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55% (…)

Ambiguous in this context means that in the perception of the recipient, the spoken words and the tone/gestures do not match.

Mehrabian’s theory might not be a general rule of thumb for all communication scenarios out there. However, written communication has the required level of ambiguity to make the rule applicable. In particular, if the communicators come from different cultures and therefore don’t share the same mother tongue.

To miss out on a nuance in tone can completely change the meaning of a sentence. The lack of a common cultural background might lead to misinterpretations on an even bigger scale. Even if people speak the same basic language (e.g. English), the meaning of a certain expression might be fundamentally different from the spoken word as shown by the Independent.co.uk in 2015.

I can’t see your eyes, so I don’t know what you’re saying

Crime shows have taught us how agents identify liars by their facial expressions and gestures. In modern coaching, techniques like “mimic resonance” receive a lot of attention because they can help to overcome the “non-verbal” barrier for understanding each other.

But what happens if resonating on the other person’s mimics or gestures isn’t an option?

Everyone has been in a situation in which an Email or a text message has caused confusion, slight irritation or outright fury. In the same way, everyone has experienced the awkwardness of realising that the whole hoo-ha was caused by a misinterpretation or wrong assumption.

If we can’t look each other in the eye in the quest for the word’s real meaning, we need to find other ways to convey feeling or intent.

Emoticons in business are unprofessional – but what of emotion?

Research and experts can be found on both ends of the spectrum. Statements such as:

(…) smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence. Perceptions of low competence in turn undermined information sharing. (…)

(Source: “The dark side of a smiley” (2017) on sagepub.vom)

live next to charts like this one:
Leading reasons for using Emojis according to U.S. internet users as of August 2015

(Source: statista 2015)

Leaving everything to the recipient’s interpretation probably isn’t the right way to go about it. Plastering digital messages with LOLing yellow faces and other emotional hints might not help much either. The middle ground between “professional” and “warm and cuddly” probably lies in the art of using emoticons (or emojis) in moderation.

We can think of it like company team building events: a drink can facilitate the building of new relationships, too many drinks can destroy the same relationships forever.

Another factor that influences the perception of emoticons in business communications is “protocol” or “social conditioning”. A study from the University of Missouri-St. Louis concluded,

(…) In a task-oriented context, where impersonal, cold, and unsociable features of computer-mediated communication are strongly encouraged in order to build credibility or professionalism, using emoticons in e-mail might create a positive expectancy violation by being friendly, emotional, and personal. (…)

If we deny the importance of emotions and the human touch in business relationships, we condition people to perceive them the wrong way: as unprofessional.

So instead of banning emotion and emoticons from written business communication, we might want to teach people the appropriate use and expression of emotion.

We live in a world in which work life balance and well-being play a bigger role than ever. Therefore bringing some human touch to business communications is surely more appropriate than trying to stick rigidly to the “fun is fun and work is work” paradigm of the old days.

Our take on emojis and reactions at Fleep

From day one at Fleep we were in agreement that conveying emotion is essential in digital messaging. That’s why we have our own little set of Fleep-style, hand drawn emoticons that we believe work across cultures.

Just recently we introduced emoji based reactions to give our users even more freedom in expressing their opinion or feeling on a topic with a simple click.

Since a reaction can be much more than just a like or dislike, we even decided to offer a broader spectrum of “emotion”. With the entire set of emojis that are established across almost all digital messaging tools. Fleep users can now be more versatile in feedback with a  one-click statement on a team member’s message.

Sign up and trial Fleep today!

 

About the author

philipp

Philipp is a business coach and consultant who helps teams to find the “True North” for their digitalisation programs & projects. He works with structured discovery, design methods & engaging workshops, drawing on his cross-industry experience in internal & external digitalisation along the way. Find him on digital-sherpa.me and Twitter!

Team Building In A Virtual World

You’ve been looking for the perfect person to join your team for a while, then suddenly you find “the one”. The problem is that they live out of town and the commute is too long.

Team building in a virtual world

Thanks to the increase in remote working, you no longer have to give up on them. In fact, globally, 79% of knowledge workers work outside the office on a regular basis, so you are not alone when building a team of remote workers. The increase in remote working means that companies are balancing presence and remote work to ensure that productivity is not impacted.

Another important factor is building inter-team relationships to maximize collaboration when your staff is no longer sat together in the same room.

Out of sight, out of mind

A survey of 1100 employees conducted by Harvard Business Review found that remote workers felt they weren’t treated equally. Specifically, they worry that they are left out of important project discussions or that their office based co-workers say bad things about them. If not addressed quickly, these negative emotions can lead to productivity issues and increased stress for the remote worker.

Team building is important for a number of reasons, all related to ensuring that the productivity of the team is maximized. A group of individuals who are comfortable with each other are likely to be more creative. If they know each other’s strengths, they can distribute the work effectively to leverage these.

Building Trust

The best way to help a team of remote workers to function well together is to put measures in place to help build trust. It’s easy to assume that when employees first meet, they look to find each other’s strengths.

In reality, they’ll want to find a way to connect, normally through a shared interest or experience.

Due to the increased usage of geographically dispersed teams, communication between teammates is shifting from face to face chats at the water cooler to using online collaboration tools. The time that the employees spend together in one location is minimal. This means that team building activities need to be more engineered.

This can be achieved through encouraging the team to network, sharing virtual coffee breaks or including an informal “get to know you” section into team meetings.

A technique often used by companies with a large number of employees is to hold a group team building event, which brings together the remote employees in one location to engage in a series of planned activities designed to help the team get to know each other better.

Why invest in team building?

Teams are often made up of individuals from different backgrounds with different levels of experience. These people don’t get to choose who they are grouped with but are expected to work collaboratively to achieve a shared result.

Team building is crucial to the success of any business with more than one employee. It has been proven time and time again that spending time focusing on improving team communication can have long term benefits to the company.
Why wait? Invest now to help maximize profits, improve staff retention and empower your teams to be more mission focused.

Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt. Jenny’s previous experience in business has allowed her to specialize in the sector, although she also enjoys writing about entrepreneurship, leadership and new technology.

Chat for teams

Make E-Mail great again

It’s not “e-mail” that’s broken…

If we took all the e-mails produced by a company over the period of one year and looked at it from a “could there have been a better option than e-mail” perspective, I truly believe this is what it would look like:
E-Mail usage

No matter what the alternative could have been, in the majority of cases email wasn’t the right vehicle for moving a message from A to B.  For a small minority of cases, it probably was.

I’ve never seen any in-depth content or interaction analysis of corporate e-mail usage beyond end user surveys. But, since e-mail has turned into this intrusive curse, chasing information workers relentlessly across devices and time zones like a sinister spirit, it is clear that something’s not ok.

With the Millennials entering the workplace, this creeping feeling about e-mail has escalated further. Which hoody-wearing future talent would even consider information exchange through this antiquated medium? They Facebook, tweet, WhatsApp, Instagram or Snapchat their way through an always-on world, right?

With the intent of solving this challenge, tech companies from all over the world are introducing entirely new ways of communication to companies. Social Media in the workplace is here. What works in the private world so splendidly, must surely be the solution to the mind numbing avalanche of e-mail in the business world, mustn’t it? So the evangelists have started preaching the bright future of productivity, networking and corporate culture.

We don’t seem to have stopped at any time however, and considered the question: why is e-mail broken? Or: is e-mail even broken at all?

E-mail wasn’t built for real-time communication exchange. It was never designed for collaborating on information and documents. It should never have become the only reliable channel through which “need to know” information could be delivered.

Without even realising it, companies have managed to turn e-mail into the foundation of any business or support process. Over the course of two decades, the global workforce has been gradually conditioned to believe that e-mail is the only way for businesses to interact and exchange information digitally.

Even the good old phone call has fallen victim to the short two line message that can be so conveniently fired off between meetings. It’s really no surprise that what used to be a status symbol of “importance” has turned into a curse in the workplace.

Of course, if we insist on using e-mail for things it was never intended, it will seem broken.  But then its on us, not e-mail itself.

Sometimes, a letter is appropriate.

Not E-Mail

Well, not literally of course. When I say “letter”, I don’t mean the physical piece of paper. A letter in this context is a well considered message. A message that is sent to one or more recipients through an established channel. It conveys a certain level of formality and may be left unread until time allows. A letter can be important but isn’t necessarily urgent. Its recipients are clear and so is the sender.

I believe there are use cases that allow for, or even demand, something other than an instant message, a feed post or an entry in a discussion board. Sometimes popping over a text or answering with an emoji is even outright rude. And sometimes e-mail is the only way anyway, because there simply isn’t any other common channel a group of people share.

Just recently I watched a scene in the Netflix series “The Crown”, in which Queen Elizabeth sat down to write a letter. Before sitting down she paced back and forth, thinking about what she wanted to say. Then she took a piece of paper, opened a fountain pen and took a deep breath before writing the first lines.

This is how we should use e-mail: deliberate, thought through, with a clear objective in mind. The goal should be to convey a message to the recipient, not to just fire it off and be done with it. The format itself should be a clear signal of intent: here is something I need you to really digest and understand. Therefore I have taken the time to write it down. Read it when you have the time.

We can make e-mail great again. Literally.

If we as senders take our communication pace down a notch, we will re-gain time to think about how to write what, to who, and where. After that we can still fire away our chat messages, newsfeed posts and collaboration space comments where appropriate.

Occasionally however, we need to sit down and think for a while, take the time to write a text and choose our words and recipients carefully. Then, sign it and send if off, knowing that at the other end of the line someone will appreciate the format and wait until all the posts, messages and comments have gone quiet to then read our message, consciously and with intent.

Having the best of both worlds is possible.

At Fleep we believe in consolidating communication throughout your organization. Most modern day communication tools almost manage this.

It has become standard to expect chat tools to include messaging, voice and video calls and to let you save and share files easily as a minimum. But Fleep takes things one step further integrating with e-mail. This means you can add people to conversations and teams with their email address and they’ll receive messages as emails until they sign up to Fleep.

The very nature of this should help to foster asynchronous, considered communication within a chat app.

We realise that email has been the tool of choice for a very long time and is still at large in many organisations today. It may even have its place in some scenarios. So while we believe that change is inevitable, we’re committed to making the process of unifying your communication channels less painful by keeping them all in one place.

Sign up and trial Fleep today!

 

About the author

philipp

Philipp is a business coach and consultant who helps teams to find the “True North” for their digitalisation programs & projects. He works with structured discovery, design methods & engaging workshops, drawing on his cross-industry experience in internal & external digitalisation along the way. Find him on digital-sherpa.me and Twitter!

Does a balance of presence and remote work increase collaboration results?

Companies and jobs are becoming more and more global. The new generation of workers brings new values into the workplace, in which “life balance” plays a bigger role. Personal freedom is directly associated with trust and accountability. New technological options and greater mobility encourages freelance work for those who prefer flexibility to a monthly pay cheque. This article is about what remote work means for employees, managers and freelancers.

Remote work

Being present or being there.

We still live in a world in which often, being present in an office space is associated with productivity or dedication to the employer. For many companies, home office or remote work is still a privilege for management or those connected to the right people.
But being physically present does not necessarily mean that a person’s mind and focus are on the job. In the world of open office spaces and countless meetings it’s often quite the opposite. According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll, U.S. employees at large-sized companies (1000+ employees) spend only 45% of their time on their primary function. 14 % of their time is spent on email, the remaining 40% of their working hours is spent on meetings, admin and “interruptions”.

Globalisation and the associated decentralisation of organisations mean physical presence should no longer be an indicator for productivity. Being considered for specific roles or even a promotion, should not be determined by location. If companies really want to tap into the global talent pool and profit from diversity and cultural enrichment, it’s necessary to adapt leadership and organisational mechanics to fit that ambition. This means hiring remote workers.

According to a Deloitte study (Winning over the next generation of leaders, 2016), millennial workers feel repelled by traditional corporate structures, often believing such companies are solely driven by bottom-line goals. Companies that successfully manage to keep millennial workers on board, provide a healthy work-life balance, opportunities for personal development and allow for flexible working hours. Trust pays off, as the latest millennial study by Deloitte (The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017) has shown:

(…) Accountability and flexibility are highly correlated; those working in the more flexible environments report higher levels of personal responsibility. For example, where flexible working is most deeply entrenched, 34 percent take “a great deal” of personal accountability for their organisations’ reputations. This compares to just 12 percent within enterprises where there is low flexibility. (…)

It’s not either or. It’s the right balance that makes for a winning formula.

Mastering the art of remote work requires effort from all participants. Its a balancing act between spending enough time building and deepening relationships, mostly through digital tools since you are not on site. While at the same time leveraging the ability to retract from distraction and noise. The latter is particularly important in the attempt to reach a state called „Deep Work“, which was introduced by Cal Newport in his book in 2016.

  • Individuals need to develop a sense for when they need „down time“ from people, and when social contact is beneficial.
  • Teams need to find a way to create a solid foundation for virtual collaboration and establish rules so that the absence of one does not create bottle necks for others.
  • Managers with local and remote workers need to evolve their leadership and coaching skills. Their challenge lies in unifying a distributed team and maintaining strong bonds to those who get less face time.

For freelancers this way of working is already the norm. Frequently, they don’t see their clients face to face every day. This is particularly true if they are juggling more than one assignment. Freelancers can arrange for face time with their clients and then retract and “get things done”. With the dawn of new communication and collaboration technologies, this has become even simpler. Staying in touch with their clients has never been easier.

Making relationships with remote workers, work

In a publication from the Harvard Business Review on a 2017 study with 1’100 employees, the following key aspects of managing remote employees were described:

  • Check in frequently and consistently
  • Use face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact
  • Demonstrate exemplary communication skills
  • Make expectations explicit
  • Be available
  • Demonstrate familiarity and comfort with technology
  • Prioritise relationships

Not all aspects require physical presence, but they require more than the occasional phone call. Modern technology accommodates all the points mentioned above, even without excessive travel or time investment. It also allows for the adoption of these aspects by every member of the team.

Fleep builds bridges and maintains relationships with remote workers

At Fleep we believe that conversation is a key element of a successful team, onsite and remote. Whether it‘s about the exchange of ideas or simply about staying in touch. Developing a deeper understanding of one another and fostering relationships of any kind requires talking. Sometimes this exchange is in real-time in a chat or an audio conversation, sometimes it can go on for a longer period and be an asynchronous conversation between two or more people on a specific subject.

Fleep is designed to serve both scenarios, but ensures that live & persistent exchanges are kept in one single place. This is how we give our users the power over their conversations whilst avoiding „fear of missing out“ and the need to constantly check instant messages. Through our integration with any major e-mail client, Fleep can radically improve the way you communicate with colleagues and partners allowing you to connect seamlessly with them all in one place no matter how remote you are physically.

I trust my team to work remotely. Let me test Fleep!

 

About the author

philipp

Philipp is a business coach and consultant who helps teams to find the “True North” for their digitalisation programs & projects. He works with structured discovery, design methods & engaging workshops, drawing on his cross-industry experience in internal & external digitalisation along the way. Find him on digital-sherpa.me and Twitter!

How to Stay Healthy While Working a Desk Job

Desk Job

Millions of individuals worldwide have a typical 9-5 desk job. While sitting behind a desk for the most part of the day, the sedentary nature of your employment may leave you feeling lethargic and unmotivated. While it may seem tedious at first to adopt the changes necessary to keep you healthy while working a desk job, your efforts will soon pay off. When you feel healthy your productivity will naturally increase allowing you to concentrate for longer periods of time and you will feel happier.

Engaging in a healthy work lifestyle can also be utilized as a team-building exercise as you and your colleagues can take walking lunches together and share healthy recipes and dietary  tips.

If your job requires you to sit behind a desk for the larger part of your day, you should take certain measures to ensure that your health isn’t severely compromised. While investing in a good-quality comfortable chair that offers support to vital areas of your spine is a good place to start, various other actions can be taken to keep you healthy at your desk

Include exercise in your daily routine

Working exercise into your day at the office is a sure-fire way to ensure that you remain healthy while desk-bound. If your office is too far to walk to, consider getting off the train or bus a few stops earlier so that you walk more than you normally would. If you drive to work park a block or two further from your place of work than you usually do. Other ways to incorporate exercise into your working day are to take the stairs instead of the elevator or to do a couple of lunges or squats every time you go to the restroom.

Take walking lunches

Walking lunches are becoming increasingly popular amongst office-bound employees. Eat at your desk while you work beforehand or make sure you take a lunch that can be eaten ‘on-the-go’ while you walk. 30 minutes of brisk walking is more than enough to increase your heart-rate, giving it an important workout. Walking increases your serotonin and endorphin levels, making you happier  and is also known to decrease your cholesterol levels as well as lower your blood pressure. Keep a pair of comfortable walking shoes in a drawer at your desk, pop in a headset if you are walking alone and take full advantage of the time you are allowed to leave your desk.

Adjust your monitor

Staring at a screen for long periods of time every day can have a negative impact on your eyesight as well as cause computer vision syndrome (CVS) which include vision problems directly related to prolonged computer use. If you are forced to look at a screen for long periods of time try to adjust your monitor settings to avoid unnecessary strain on your eyes. The brightness of your screen should ideally match the lighting in your office. If a blank text document glows like a light source your monitor is too bright. Take every measure you can to lower blue light emission as much as possible.

Drink plenty of fluids

It’s easy to become dehydrated when you work behind a desk all day because subconsciously you might only relate liquid intake to physical activity. Regardless of whether you are physically active or sedentary, you need to drink approximately 8 glasses of water every day in order to stay healthy. Drinking enough water will also lead to more bathroom breaks which equates to extra steps being walked. If you have difficulty drinking water, try infusing it with your favourite fruit for added flavour.

You may feel like you are faced with a myriad of health-related obstacles when working predominantly behind a desk but there are plenty of choices you can make and actions you can take to ensure that your health never suffers as a result of your sedentary job. By making small changes to your daily routine you can improve your general health significantly even when sitting down for most of the day.


Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt. Jenny’s previous experience in business has allowed her to specialize in the sector, although she also enjoys writing about entrepreneurship, leadership and new technology.

Chat for teams