Running Your Business

How to Streamline Your Workplace Communication Tools

  • Streamline to only the absolutely necessary tools or your workers may get overwhelmed

  • Consider privacy, security and easy-to-learn interfaces that aren't tempting for off-topic, non-work use

  • Communicate the changes with a written policy and offer refresher courses on the tools you're keeping

Posted by May 31, 2019

There are so many different workplace communication tools these days, it can get overwhelming. From email, text, instant messaging, intranet and collaboration platforms, there’s no shortage of opportunities for connecting with your employees.

But sometimes these tools can be more of a burden than a benefit. You might communicate with one team through an instant messaging tool, another through email, and another through a company intranet.

Here’s how to streamline your communication tools and determine which are essential, and which can slowly be phased out.

The Case for Streamlining

When your office uses too many communication tools, discussions can go from streamlined to overwhelming. Some employees may have trouble understanding how each one works. Others may not want to load so many applications on their phones and computers. Others may focus so much on one platform, that they miss important messages on another. According to one survey, more than half of the workers said they feel overwhelmed by having to use multiple communication platforms. Some admitted they were so stressed that they were ready to quit over it.

If you want to streamline your method of workplace communication, there are a few different options to consider. Microsoft created a Teams platform as a hub for employees to access all their chats, documents and messages in one place. They did this to solve the issue of their own workers getting overwhelmed by all the options. You might choose to do something similar, or you could streamline communication by sticking to one or two platforms.

What to Consider When Choosing Your Platforms

When choosing which communications platforms to keep, consider which are most accessible and have the easiest learning curve. Don’t keep the most complicated app just because it has a lot of bells and whistles. Consider which options you really use.

And don’t forget about privacy and security when picking your platforms. Choose a platform that’s not easily hacked. At the bare minimum, you’ll likely need a video conferencing tool, an instant messaging tool (which is often part of a collaboration platform), a file sharing and storage tool, and an email application (which is sometimes combined with messaging or collaboration platforms).

After you’ve narrowed down your options, consider sending an anonymous survey to your employees to find out which platforms they use the most and why they avoid others.

Communicating Policy Changes

Once you’ve decided which platforms you’re keeping and which you’re eliminating, it’s time to communicate your decision to your employees. Distribute a written policy by email or during a meeting. Make sure any usage guidelines are written in flexible, rather than rigid, language. Consider holding a workshop for anyone who needs a refresher on how to use the tools.

In your written policy, provide examples of how to properly use the tools, along with examples of poor use. A case for this might be when employees hit “reply all” when an individual reply is better. And while messaging apps are good for internal discussions, you might prefer email for talks with potential clients. In addition, encourage employees to only include as many people in a project or discussion group as absolutely necessary.

Remember that streamlining platforms isn’t enough. You may also need to train employees on using proper time management with these tools. In fact, poor communication policies can play just as big of a role in poor workplace communication habits as the technology itself. It might be a good idea to choose a communications tool that employees don’t typically use personally, so they’re less likely to get distracted.

Some companies even implement blocks of focus time where employees can’t use communication platforms at all. You might offer time management workshops for teaching employees how to avoid distraction and time fragmentation.

Streamlining your workplace communication tools is imperative for curbing burnout and running an efficient business.

For more helpful insights, advice and tips on how to keep productivity at the forefront of your workplace, explore the Benefits Bridge.

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