Harvard Business Review - Type Less, Talk More: The NKD Opinion

Harvard Business Review – Type Less, Talk More: The NKD Opinion

How often do you ‘talk’ to your friends and colleagues? A more accurate question might be how often do you ‘talk’ and how often do you ‘type’? During the pandemic I’m starting to think ‘talking’ is on the verge of becoming obsolete… 

And, it turns out I’m not the only one, as a recent Harvard Business Review article: ‘Type less, Talk more‘ reports on how people undervalue the positive relational consequences of using voice relative to text alone, leading them to favor typing rather than talking—a potentially unwise preference.

Microsoft Teams, Slack and even WhatsApp messages are replacing emails at work, and we’re more likely to send a text message than make a call in our personal lives. This change in habits happened largely due to an increased use of social media networks, but also a change in lifestyles and habits and exacerbated by 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic.

Facts and figures

  • The average user will tap, swipe or click on their phone over 2000 times per day
  • Zoom Meeting continues to be the go-to video conferencing application for the masses with over 200 million daily users. 
  • Microsoft Teams usage has increased exponentially, the product recently hit 44 million daily users coming from 93 of Fortune 100 companies and over 650 organizations with more than 10,000 users.

I wanted to explore how the NKD Team have been adjusting to communications since the pandemic began, at work and at home. 

Derek Danquah: Do you think you get information across better on the phone or via message?

Sam Lee: I think it depends on the type of information you are communicating. If it is a big, lengthy process that requires step by step details I personally think it is better in writing. If, however it requires a conversation where there is a lot of questions, to-ing and fro-ing of ideas and collaboration I think a phone call is better. 

Derek: What are some of the main reasons why you would send message? 

Olivia Hirshfield: For a small question I would send a message, for something that needs explaining with details I would give a call. also depends on my mental state, if I’m tired or don’t have energy I might not want to speak with someone on the phone.

Derek: That’s interesting – it’s harder sometimes to get a picture of someone’s mental state when we’re not seeing each other in the office too.

Olivia: That’s true. I message more than phone in my personal life. Now that’s shifted to sending voice messages to several people at 1 time.

Derek: Everyone is using voice notes these days!

Olivia: At work I send more messages via teams chat, it is effective, and then when something needs more explanation, that’s when I jump on the phone or video call.

Derek: What would make you pick up the phone instead of message?

Sam Thomas: I would normally call someone for a deeper level of conversation. The flow is better, and you hear someone completely different to reading a message.

Derek: So maybe if you want to ‘check-in’ with someone?

Sam: That’s right!

Derek: We all know checking-in with people is important for many reasons. Now we work from home most of the time, how would you normally do this?

Jorge Vafeas: I think it depends on what I’m after – if it’s a quick question, requiring a short answer, I tend to just type a message using the chat function; if it’s something that needs a bit more discussion, then definitely a video call. 

I also have a look at the person’s availability or status message (on Microsoft Teams) – if it’s red, I tend to type a message because I assume they’re busy and can answer the chat message when they’re free; if it’s green, I usually call them! 

Camera off or camera on?!

Working from home is the ‘new normal’. With this, communication is different for us at work in various ways… from bumping into each other in the kitchen making a coffee or a hot chocolate and having chat, to looking at each other’s eyes through the computer screen… or not.

I got the chance to ask a couple of colleagues on how they feel about team meetings virtually and starting a new job during a pandemic.

Derek: What do you prefer when having a team meeting, camera off or camera on?

Andrew Thoupos: I definitely prefer to have my camera (and each participant’s camera) ON.

It feels more natural and engaging, allowing us to interact with one another more easily. 

I find that with cameras off, people may be tempted to ‘multi-task’ by reading other emails, chats and messages – where with them on, people behave as they would when in a room together.

We need to look each other in the eye!

Derek: So, you’re definitely team, ‘camera on!’

Andrew: Definitely!

Derek: Welcome to the team Raj! You joined NKD only a few weeks ago, and with most of us working at home, you’ve been meeting most colleagues virtually through Microsoft teams. Can you tell me more what that experience has been like? Have you felt connected?

Raj: Joining a new company during the pandemic has been a unique experience! But we have to adapt and accept this new way of life. It’s a really good idea to meet colleagues via video call on Teams so I’m pleased that happened. It definitely helps to connect with that person and find out details about their work and personal life. It’s much better than just a phone call. 

In terms of my induction I think it’s been great. I got an instant feel for the company through Trello, videos and the imagery within certain documents sent to me. 

Food for thought

Having all this in mind, it’s undeniable that typing is becoming a bigger and bigger part in our everyday communications. And it seems like it has a really important place in the world we live in right now – we use messages through teams or WhatsApp for a quick answer, for an ongoing group chat, and to see if someone’s free.

But you cannot underestimate the power of hearing someone’s voice through a phone call or seeing their face during a video chat. Talking to my colleagues it seems as though phone calls and video chats is the best way to really understand how someone is feeling, and feel the connection most similar to if we were in-person.

So, next time you really want to know how someone’s feeling – pick up the phone!

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