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Opinion: Ask co-workers: Do you prefer written or verbal communication?

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It’s often hinted in the workplace that a lengthy meeting could have been a quicker, more efficient email instead.

Certainly, there are meetings that could have been emails, but in other situations, an email might not suffice.

It’s worth examining how much time meetings are taking from the workweek. According to the 2021 Productivity Trends Report by Reclaim.ai, professionals average 21.5 hours in meetings a week, or more than half of the standard 40-hour workweek.

The discussion should be held in your workplace to determine the best mix.

Rather than delve into this email versus meeting conversation that has been discussed ad nauseam, I’m going to explore a notion that came to mind when considering this column.

For me, written communication is far superior to verbal communication (you might be thinking, “Of course you think that; you are a writer,” but stick with me here). I cannot come close to expressing myself as well out loud as I can on the pages of this paper, in text messages or on social media networks. I’ve become more skilled at verbal communication through trial and error, leaning on my patient wife and friends, and growing more confident with myself as a communicative person through time. Not everyone has that luxury.

The reasons people like me prefer written communication may vary, but it’s likely due to being able to clearly hash out our thoughts first before they’re sent out into the world, establishing a more measured response or remaining in our comfort zones.

A 2019 article published by Houston Chronicle, called “Importance of Written Communication in Business,” brings this issue back to the corporate world.

In the piece, freelance business journalist Kimberlee Leonard gives several examples why written communication can be beneficial for an organization.

Here are some to consider:

1. It creates a permanent record of ideas and information.

2. Written communication can help your organization better establish its brand by using professional language.

3. Clear messages, in written form, establish loyal relationships.

“Successful business leaders are master communicators, whether in oral or written form,” Leonard writes. “The digital age has transformed how businesses communicate with consumers, vendors and partners. Written business communication should be professional, clear and concise. Don’t fall victim to poorly written communication, before you realize just how important written communication is for your business.”

In your business, I would encourage you to gauge how your employees best like to communicate. The better your understanding of how communication works in your office, the better business will flow.

In a recent chat with a co-worker, I asked whether the digital version of oneself (via Facebook or any other platform that requires written communication) is reflective of who you are in “real life,” an unrelated version of who you really are or perhaps an exaggerated version of yourself. We agreed it’s likely a mix.

There’s a parallel back to the business world. A co-worker’s preferred self might be the person who responds via email and rarely engages in small talk. Maybe your co-worker really enjoys small talk and finds written communication intimidating or a waste of time. Either way, it’s likely your organization has a mix of these folks.

If an employer cares about an inclusive and effective workplace that retains its workers, all styles of communication must be considered and respected. Perhaps a quick audit of how your co-workers or employees communicate could be just the boost your business is needing.

Springfield Business Journal Digital Editor Geoff Pickle can be reached at gpickle@sbj.net.

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