Balancing Electronic and In-person Communication in the Workplace

 By Ian Smith

Member of IMA Young Professionals Committee
Executive Director, Senior Business Administrator, University of Cincinnati

 
Can you ever be too electronically connected? It is the ultimate paradox. Technology allows us to be in touch with our colleagues and friends 24/7, yet without a balance of electronic and in-person communication we will increasingly become disconnected from each other.
 
Below are some suggestions for managing your time spent corresponding with colleagues online and in person.
 
Turn your iPad, laptop, and cell phone off or on silent in meetings, and leave them alone. I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of being overly electronically connected. It is common for me to be in a meeting and scroll through a few e-mails on my BlackBerry or glance at my meeting calendar to see what’s coming up next.
 
Resist this urge.
 
I promise you the work will still be there once the meetings are over, and it is very important to show the other meeting participants that you respect their time and attention. Active listening requires, well…active listening! While we all claim to be multitaskers and can partially listen while working on something else, being connected via electronic devices while in meetings can be viewed as disrespectful, and you could potentially miss important information.
 
Holster your handheld while walking around the office. Just today, I can think of two instances where I checked and responded to e-mails while walking from meeting to meeting, therefore ignoring what is happening around me. My advice is to put the phone away and interact with co-workers and clients as you walk between meetings and around workplace areas.
 
Just the other day I met our CEO in an elevator, introduced myself, and began what I hope is a positive relationship. If I would have been distracted by reading my BlackBerry, perhaps I would have made the wrong first impression and missed the opportunity to start this relationship off on the right foot.
 
Predefine time for e-mails and getting away from your office. Many professionals make a full-time job of e-mailing. While e-mail is an effective mode of communication for distributing feedback to many people, it can also absorb our day if we let it.
 
One suggestion to counter e-mail overload would be to block time in your calendar each day to read and respond to e-mails, and stick to this schedule. There is usually nothing so important that it cannot wait for a response within 24 hours. Another suggestion would be to block time for simply getting out of your chair and walking around your office. If you take even 30 minutes a day to say hello to staff, colleagues, and supervisors in person, you will be amazed at the great information you will start to receive because you are there and available.
 
Regularly have lunch in the cafeteria or outside of the office. If you sit at your desk while eating, it generally encourages more computer time and less face time. Some of the best professional relationships I have developed started over coffee or at lunch. Colleagues are more willing to open up outside of the perceived confines of the office environment, and you can obtain some of your best information and really connect with others if you make it a priority to network outside of the office. Lunches and coffee breaks are great opportunities for this.
 
We should never be a servant to our electronics, they should serve us. Some of these ideas will be tough to implement in your daily lives, but I assure you that you will be more connected than ever when you can learn to unplug on a regular basis. You will always win if you make relationships and people a priority over electronic devices.

This blog

The IMA Young Accounting Pros Blog features the insights of IMA's Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.

38929

Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.

70075

Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.

43721

Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

80751
Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.
17559

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".

50723

William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.

74626

Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (www.ubcc.com), a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.

22481

Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.

58759

Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

31589
Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
95083
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.
22517

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

47403
Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
24380
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.
28354

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.

91322

The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

29797

FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.

102129

Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.

54806

Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

36093
Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.
62000

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.

87335

AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

48438