Compartmentalizing Communication in the Post-PC World

Bill Lumbergh in the movie “Office Space”

There used to be a system for communication at the workplace. Non-urgent memos took time to be delivered, and sat in employees’ “In” trays for months, or flapped on a bulletin board. Casual conversations were conducted face-to-face around the water cooler. And if things were really pressing, managers would pick up the phone and give the employees a ring, track down the employees, or effort would be put into delivering an urgent memo.

A Dilbert strip from 1990 by Scott Adams.

Then email was born, followed by Wi-Fi, and high-speed data became ubiquitous. Today, we receive all forms of communication instantly. No matter where you are, and no matter how urgent the message is, everything now reaches the palm of your hand simultaneously. Be it a company-wide email on a change in benefits policy, a discussion within a working group about an upcoming project, or a Buzzfeed article with funny cat gifs - employees receive the same, instant vibration on their mobile device.

Now don’t get us wrong: as we pointed out in our survey of employee mobility, this is a major step in communication, as it eradicates any delays in getting messages, and finally breaks the chains binding employees to their office desks. However, because delays used to indicate the urgency of a message, the advancement in mobile technology has also eradicated the old system of prioritizing enterprise communications.

As a recent Harvard Business Review survey of e-mails shows, a whopping 58% of work e-mails aren’t essential or critical. The “do this now” messages have become lost among the deluge of information. This is bad news for the 60% of respondents surveyed that use email as tool for accountability: as colleagues delight in increased opportunities to be social, productivity falls as employees have to choose which of the myriad of messages to address first. Greater choice has come hand in hand with decision fatigue, especially for employees who are constantly on-the-go.

It is about time every organization approached internal communications with a framework for the following 3 categories:

• Important and urgent communication
• Important, but slow-response communication
• Non-crucial communication. 

In line with this framework, organizations need tools that correspond to each category. Most importantly, they need a way to support communication of the first category. There are existing solutions purely for the second and third categories, but those solutions are no longer appropriate for the first category. Messages that do not require quick responses? Email works for that. Non-crucial chatter and sharing? That category has a bevy of social network offerings. What’s been lacking is a solution for the first, and most important, piece – the important AND urgent messages. And that’s what Lua’s focused on.

We’re not just speculating about the success of a completely new framework: regular consumers have already settled into the above routine for their personal communication. They have email for their slow-response messages, Facebook for their social activity, and text messaging/calls for quick response. Instead of emailing our roommates, people text or call when they are locked out of the apartment. Why should enterprise communication be any different?

This is our response to people who ask: “But what about email?” - We aren’t trying to replace email. There is a place for email - it's for things that can wait. But companies must not forget about the urgent messages, and we’re here to help with that.

Kohzy oversees Product Marketing at Lua. He has worked in the finance and technology industries, and has experienced the inefficiencies and silos in the workplace that Lua addresses. He's passionate about every aspect of urban life - ubiquitous connectivity, public transportation, instant gratification - especially in the great city of NYC.