Lucie Benson

The Post Office has a new report out, after researching the way office workers communicate with each other in this ‘digital communication age’.

The research concluded that we are hiding behind emails and text messages to deal with awkward situations, instead of facing them head on, and the Post Office has branded us a nation of cowards, who are keeping a “digital distance”.

The main findings from the research showed that 73% of people admit to delegating difficult tasks at work by email and text, 52% use digital communication to contact new business prospects, and 51% rely on email and texts to apologise for mistakes.

Well, I am really not surprised by the findings, and I am the first to admit that I have, on occasion, sent an email instead of made a phone call to deal with various awkward situations, both in my work and personal life. And before you judge me, have a think about whether you have too!

Depending on the situation, I don’t really think there is a great deal wrong with this, because many people can express themselves more articulately when given the time to think about what they want to say, rather than say things they may regret over the phone, in the heat of the moment. Plus, sometimes it is better to have things in writing, as a record of communication etc.

However, on other occasions, I couldn’t agree more with the Post Office, especially, for instance, when work colleagues email each other when they are sitting a mere two feet away from each other! What is the point in that?! It is so important to build positive relationships at work, and the best way to do that is to talk face-to-face.

Plus, why is it suddenly acceptable to ‘call’ in sick via a text message? I know that many HR departments (quite rightly) do not allow this, and stipulate that employees must phone their line manager when they are ill, but the Post Office findings show that one in four 18-34 year-olds think this is appropriate, so we certainly have some work to do here.

Perhaps the answer (in part) to these findings lie in a recent article in The Observer, discussing internet addiction, which apparently is now a “serious public health issue”. The article explains that, among others, emailing and text messaging have been identified as “causes of a compulsive-impulsive disorder” and The Centre for Internet Addiction Recovery (yes, there is actually a ‘centre’ for it!) in Pennsylvania in the USA, says that “internet addiction has become a growing legal issue in criminal, divorce and employment cases”.

Well, I can’t see this digital age slowing anytime soon – quite the opposite actually – so maybe now is the time to be addressing the fact that many of us are hiding behind our computers a little bit too much.

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