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9 Tips for Using Technology the Right Way at Work

Look around the conference room at your next staff meeting. Chances are that everyone will have their smartphones on the table, some will have electronic tablets, and most will be engaged with their devices rather than the discussion. Once considered bad form, being online during business meetings has become the new normal. It’s just one of myriad ways technology has changed the way we work.

Not only has technology changed our workplace etiquette, it has also spread our workday across 24 hours. While many professionals say this makes their lives more flexible, giving them more autonomy and making them more productive, the 24-hour workday spawned by technology does have its downsides.

“It wasn't supposed to be this way, this all-consuming workday that keeps us perpetually tethered to the office …,” writes Elizabeth Eaves for Marie Claire. “But only now has the bruising reality of this new, modern workday settled in. Our hard-won flexibility has become a leash. Instead of freeing up time for life outside of work, the workday never actually ends …”

Find yourself struggling to draw a line between using technology in a supportive role and being consumed by it? We’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts that will limit digital faux pas and enhance your on and offline relationships with co-workers.

1. Want your staff to have great tech habits? Set an example

As a leader, it’s important to show your employees that it is ok, and even preferable, to take time away from work after hours, as well as at weekends and during holidays. One way to demonstrate this is by limiting your own digital communications to some degree. If your employees see that you’re habitually sending emails at 3 a.m., they will get the message that they should be doing the same. “A frantic environment that includes answering e-mails at all hours doesn’t make your staff more productive. It just makes them busy and distracted. You base your staff hiring decisions on their knowledge, experience and unique talents, not how many tasks they can seemingly do at once, or how many e-mails they can answer in a day,” says Maura Thomas for the Harvard Business Review.

2. Contentious conversation? Have it face-to-face

Because of their sensitive nature, some messages are more appropriately communicated in person. When you find yourself wishing you could send a sensitive email to a colleague or employee in lieu of talking to them, that’s probably a good indication that a face-to-face meeting is what is needed.

Performance reviews, coaching sessions, and announcements of certain personnel and policy changes are among the types of communications that are better delivered in person.

3. Think before you reply all!

Anyone who has mistakenly “replied all” to an e-mail with sensitive material knows that nauseating feeling when you realise that the e-mail you just sent went to everyone in the office. Be on the safe side: Skip sending an e-mail that has the potential to hurt or embarrass you or someone else, and talk to the intended recipient in person or by phone.

4. Read it before you send it

Since e-mails and texts can’t communicate facial expressions or body language, they can easily be misinterpreted and taken in the wrong spirit. Always re-read messages to make sure they are clear and consider saving jokes for face-to-face interactions.

5. Mind your language

Digital communication has made many of us careless about spelling and grammar. Don’t let these important skills fall by the wayside when communicating digitally. It can appear disrespectful and will give co-workers the sense that you are don’t care enough and are unprofessional.

6. Don’t clutter inboxes with e-mails they don’t need

“Leave people out of e-mails/meeting requests if they don't need to attend or be kept in the loop on the topic, so they won't see your e-mails as meaningless spam,” suggests Scott Matteson of TechRepublic. “If you bring others into a conversation, let them know why; don't just CC them on a huge e-mail trail.” Matteson also recommends including an informative subject line so that recipients can quickly determine what your email is about. This will give them a sense of how time-sensitive it is and whether they need to read and respond to it immediately.

7. Communicate the way colleagues want to communicate

Everyone is different. Some prefer doing business by phone, some by e-mail, and others by text or instant messaging. Follow your colleague’s lead when it comes to communicating. Interactions will be more positive and you’re likely to get more done a lot faster.

8. Use social media to be more productive at work

This tip may seem surprising, but according to Jeanne Meister, a contributing writer for Forbes, studies have found that employees who were active on social media were more productive at work. “Each study tracked workers’ use of social media alongside their performance at work, and found that digital connectivity appeared to boost metrics like productivity and retention.”

That said, always be careful of what you post. Posting career-related articles that can benefit colleagues is a great way of using social media to advance your career and enhance relationships with your co-workers. On the other hand, dissing managers and complaining about job responsibilities is a definite no-no! p>

9. Unplug for lunch

Don’t underestimate the importance of having real-time conversations with your co-workers. Conversation can lead to friendships and being friends with your colleagues can make the difference between looking forward to going to work and dreading it. Share a sandwich or a cup of coffee with a colleague, or walk over to their desk instead of e-mailing sometimes. If they aren’t too busy to talk, they will probably welcome your visit. You’ll both benefit from some human interaction.