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Business & Technology December Article

Let’s not forget that just because most of us are working in remote mode, there are still various ways to communicate based on the what we are trying to accomplish when communicating with others. There are different communications mediums that we can use; text, audio, and video. We don’t have to necessarily “Zoom or Teams” all the time. A simple phone call can be a happy medium between a Zoom call and a text message!

See very interesting article below this month from Krithika Varagur | Wall street Journal

​​Nonstop Zooms and video meetings are too taxing. Emails and Slack hold companies together, but written text can never capture the nuance of human conversation. What’s the answer? The humble phone call. “A phone call is in many ways the happy medium,” says Marissa Shuffler, associate professor of organizational psychology at Clemson University. “It’s perfect for one-on-one discussions and has just as much richness as a video call, without overwhelming you with visual information.”

In March, as the pandemic hit, many offices shifted their workflows into hours of video calls almost overnight. But they quickly realized that video doesn’t work for everything. “It was a process of trial and error, but within a month of going remote, by early April, I found myself doing most of my discovery calls with new clients on the phone rather than Zoom,” says Anna Kareis, a 25-year-old financial adviser in San Antonio who mainly advises other millennials. People tend to tell me their deepest, darkest secrets, and it’s better when they don’t have to make eye contact with me for some of that. And, honestly, sometimes people tell me things I find a bit shocking too, so it’s good for me to be able to hide my reaction.” It’s a surprising shift, she says, because she was once as phone-call-averse as they come. But she’s now at the point that she has also shifted her standing weekly meeting with a career mentor to a phone call. The phone call’s renaissance comes after its near-death at the hands of the infamously phone-phobic millennial generation, who tend to prefer text-based communication to the technology Alexander Graham Bell pioneered in 1876. As smartphones have become ubiquitous, actual phone calls have declined in volume, even in businesses that used to live and die by them. A 2018 study by sales training company ValueSelling Associates found that 48% of sales professionals were scared to make cold calls. The polling company Gallup noted a drop in its call response rate for the Gallup Poll Social Series, a set of public opinion surveys, from 28% in 1997 to 7% in 2017.

But if phone calls were once uncomfortable for young workers, they were displaced by a new world of video-driven cringe this year. The workplace’s mass migration to video revealed virtual meeting rooms to be places for unexpected guests, exasperating muting, frozen screens and the open invitation for strangers to judge your virtual backdrops. The staff of eCommerceFuel, an online community for entrepreneurs, switched to Zoom in the spring, says founder Andrew Youderian, who is based in Tucson, Ariz. “The weird thing was, our team had always been fully remote and we had been doing just fine with phone calls, Slack and Google Docs before the pandemic.” But they got swept up in the Zoom zeitgeist. “Within three weeks, I realized it wasn’t really working for us and I started pushing back on video and shifting back to the phone,” he says. There were immediate benefits. “You get to walk around, you don’t have to worry about what’s in your background.” Now he takes the initiative on client meetings by sending the invite himself, so he can actively suggest a phone call.

By many metrics, phone traffic shot up during the pandemic. FCC chairman Ajit Pai asked cell service providers in March to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, to which over 800 providers responded with provisions including unlimited calling minutes and free or discounted phone service. On April 29, weeks into many major cities’ lockdowns, AT&T reported a 32% uptick in wireless voice minutes and a 94% increase in Wi-Fi calling minutes on its network, compared with an average Wednesday before the pandemic. Susan Blum, a professor who specializes in linguistic anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, says Zoom fatigue was inevitable given how unnatural conversational patterns can get there: “Video calls do not allow any conversational overlap. You can’t say ‘mmm-hmm’ to assent because that would interrupt and put you on screen as the main speaker.” This audio-lag issue evaporates on a regular phone call. Moreover, she adds, “I’m pacing around my room now as I’m talking to you. But if you’re on Zoom, you have to be stationary and looking forward. I had hours and hours of Zoom meetings with my students last week and my neck is killing me!” In light of all this, phone calls have emerged as the better option for one-on-one conversations in the era of remote work. Still, it’s best not to take the phone’s sense of immediacy as an open invitation for constant contact. “Even though I prefer phone calls, I’m usually Slacking my team members to say, ‘Hey, are you available to chat about this?’ ” says Manu Kumar, co-founder of a contact manager app called HiHello in Palo Alto, Calif. It helps to flag why he wants to talk first. “When they don’t know the call topic, that creates a lot of stress,” he says.

Video calls retain other benefits for remote workplaces. Liz Fosslien, San Francisco-based head of content at Humu, a startup that uses AI to “nudge” employees to boost their happiness, still loves how easy it is to screen-share on video chats. Plus, she says, “If you’re going to have a difficult conversation with someone about performance management, I think it’s always better to have your camera on.” A video component also helps people with attention disorders, says Jessica Carilli, a marine scientist who works for the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific in San Diego and has ADHD. “Work from home is horrible for me, period, because of how fragmented my day is—especially with two kids at home,” she says. “I know that I prefer a video call to a phone call, because it’s harder for me to focus on just the audio, and more difficult for me to explain things when I can’t use my hands, or look at the person I’m talking to.” Even for millennials cottoning onto the work call once again, there is a degree of compartmentalization involved. I call clients, even unannounced, much more than I used to. But when it comes to running errands, like setting up a doctor’s appointment, there’s still no way I’m going to pick up the phone,” says Ms. Kareis in San Antonio. “That’s what apps are for.”

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