Despite being firmly on the path to a paperless office and a digital future, most CPA firms and offices will still rely on email to get the job done, according to recent surveys conducted by Robert Half Technology.
Regardless of their relationship to the technology – either those leading the group who manage and implement communication platforms or the users who rely on effective communication tools to do their job each day – CPA professionals say email is the tool they turn to most to communicate with peers and colleagues.
Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of 2,500 CIOs surveyed and 53 percent of 1,000 office workers believe email will be the most common way to communicate internally through 2020.
Those who believe email is on the way out cited instant messaging as the most likely replacement, being a quicker, less formal means of touching base with internal staff and employees. Popular messaging apps for mobile phones and other devices abound, including WhatsApp and Slack.
Still, according to John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, it's important to match the medium to the message.
"IM allows coworkers to collaborate in real-time and is best used for quick discussions and immediate responses," Reed said in a statement.
"Save strategizing and brainstorming for meetings and email, where you can go into more depth and avoid miscommunications," he said.
"Technical support teams can help employees understand how to maximize communication technologies, such as instant messaging or internal social networking sites, and take advantage of features to promote more fluid communications," said Reed.
When asked which communication channel is most effective for planning, strategizing and follow-up, office workers from CPA firms and other industries and roles put email as second priority. In-person meetings were first (37 percent), followed by email (27 percent), instant messaging (19 percent), phone calls (9 percent), video conferencing (6 percent) and internal social network (2 percent).
CIOs, on the other hand, had different views. They favored email (41 percent), followed by in-person meetings (22 percent), instant messaging (13 percent), phone calls (9 percent), internal social network (8 percent) and video conferencing (7 percent).
Digital Communication: Any Time, Any Where
Although email is expected to remain the most popular form of workplace communication, more than one in four professionals (28 percent), out of 1,000 workers surveyed, cited instant messaging as their primary channel for communicating with coworkers.
One reason may be immediacy: 76 percent of workers surveyed said they feel more pressure to respond immediately to instant messaging versus email, and 90 percent expect an immediate response when they send an instant message.
Robert Half says that instant messaging is usually best for a quick conversations and requests, while strategy and planning is better for meetings. It added that many workers prefer in-person meetings to communicate with colleagues.
The following are some additional findings on how workers view instant messaging:
Rules of engagement: 54 percent of professionals said their company has clear rules about how to use its internal messaging platform, like a requirement to update status as "online," "busy" or "away" to keep colleagues informed.
Do not disturb: Nearly two-thirds (65 percent of respondents) have received a message when their status is set to "do not disturb" or "busy," and 30 percent of those professionals said they were "annoyed" by the intrusion. Professionals 35 years old and older were more annoyed than their younger colleagues and more likely to refrain from sending a message when a coworker's status is "busy."
Open for business: Most professionals said their primary motivation for staying "online" with their organization's messaging platform was to inform coworkers they are working and available (56 percent). Other respondents use it to quickly access their colleagues (22 percent) and talk to fellow employees in real time (17 percent).