Team Communication Protocols: Increase Productivity by Getting Your Employees Out of Their Inboxes

Usually when people talk about the tragedy of 24/7 connectivity, they're referencing people checking their e-mail at the beach or texting at the dinner table.  But constant connectivity isn't just a problem after work.  It's a huge problem at the office, too.  Research shows that we are not in fact machines and have a finite amount of decision-making power and attention in any given day, and we are squandering it by keeping our e-mail open all day and checking Twitter every hour and everything else that our wonderful technology makes so easy to do.  

As a manager, you have only so much control, but you can help your team become more productive and less stressed by taking ten minutes to establish clear expectations for communication.  Communication protocols can help your team manage time and tasks more effectively while still being available for urgent needs.

How to establish team communication protocols

1.  Identify all of the communication vehicles available to your team.  For example, your list might include:

  • Phone – office (plus voicemail)
  • Phone – mobile (plus voicemail)
  • E-mail
  • Text
  • Instant messenger/chat
  • Project management tools
  • Regular meetings
  • Regular reports

2. Select the channel to use for urgent matters that require a response within two hours.  This channel should not be e-mail.  Mobile phone, text, or chat tend to be the most effective.  Choose one primary and one back-up for when the person can’t be reached at the primary channel.

3.  For all other communication channels, identify the expected response time for requests communicated via those channels.  Ideally, the response times should vary.  For example, voicemail response time could be four hours, e-mail response time could be one business day, and instant message response time could be one hour.  This is a good thing to discuss as a team if possible, since everyone will be affected as both a sender and a recipient.

4.  Document the agreed-upon response times.  This will serve as a reminder for the team, an orientation document for new team members, and possibly an important expectations-setting document for your own boss. 

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