I read an interesting article recently from the Harvard Business Review entitled Time to Hang Up on Voice Mail. It resonated with me as I have long been moving down this path without even realizing it. So I am coming clean – I am a sporadic voice mail listener. I am an even less frequent voice mail giver. Who wants to listen to a two minute message? I certainly don’t want to leave one, though in full disclosure I many times do because I am crappy about being succinct on voice mail. But guess what, I don’t care if you listen to it – just call me back.
That the technology is in decline is no secret. In 2012, Vonage reported its year-over-year voicemail volumes dropped 8%. The number of people bothering to retrieve those messages is down 14%. And that was nearly two years ago.
In fact, I will go even further to tell you our VOIP phone system has made me even worse. All my voice mails get emailed to me as an attachment. The subject line includes the caller ID. If your caller ID is blocked or somehow obfuscated, there is a pretty damn good chance I will never listen to it (or minimally not much past 3 seconds). In fairness to myself, the volume of cold calls I get each day is pretty large. I would get nothing done if I took or responded to everyone (as a business consultant once suggested I do). Even with this convenience, I rarely use the voice mails as much more than a tickler to call someone. In fact, the content of the voice mails is rarely anything more than that at the end of the day anyway.
At Delphic, we have all but abandoned internal voice mails in favor of some combination of IM, email, text or our task system. Sure truly urgent needs may end up in a voice mail – along with every other medium – but even those are likely to end up on a MOBILE phone voice mail and not the company phone.
In fact, I will disclose a dirty little secret. Probably about 1/3 of our employees do not even have a phone! It’s not that we are unwilling to do so, it’s frankly because for some subset of employees in non-client contact roles, they very rarely use them. But it is not just their role, but unlimited use mobile plans as well as our open floor plan further negate the need for a phone. We would provide one to anyone who asked but we simply do not get requests. Anyway, an interesting tangent to the topic.
Do you still use voice mail?
So, on the lighter side. I was golfing with our new Delphic logo balls the other weekend. I somehow managed to hit the ball directly into the notch of a tree – from my drive and on the fly. The best part about it – there was another ball in there!
What do you think, should I have left the ball in there as good advertising? LOL
I do digital for a living – helping large companies to formulate their digital strategies. I use all forms of electronics in my personal life – iPhone, iPad, SlingBox, stream Netflix, etc. I’ve cancelled my newspaper and virtually all magazine subscriptions in favor of reading online. I’ve digitized probably 15,000 photos. All my CD/DVD’s were burned long ago and reside in a box in the attic somewhere, probably never to be looked at again. In fact, one my rightfully accuse me of being a digital junkie. In all facets, I live a highly digital life.
On a vacation a few years ago, the transition of digital into the mainstream banged me over the head. Littered around the pool were people reading their Kindle’s (and trying in vain to read an iPad in bright sunlight). Books were virtually nowhere to be found. In fact, I am still amazed when I take the train to New York how much it has changed from 10-15 years ago. Newspapers and magazines have been replaced by laptops, tablets and smartphones. Digital is everywhere.
My consumption of all things digital is even further exacerbated by owning a digital agency. The need to stay on top of constantly changing tools, technology, best practices and trends is relentless. Compound this with some very long days or just the time needed to catch up when the inflow slows (i.e. nights and weekends). Of course, this means more computer time including writing this article while my son plays Minecraft next to me.
Which leads me to my point. I wonder if my digital consumption is unhealthy or does it really only matter what is consumed not how? In other words, is reading a book on a tablet really any better or worse than reading a physical book? Or do we need to delineate between the great variety of uses a digital device affords (reading, learning, etc) and the mind sucking ones (games, mindless browsing)?
Of course I worry about the traditional concernes of digital – that at times it distracts from real world experiences. Especially in relation to raising a child or family relationships. But that’s not the sprit of the issue I am trying to raise here.
So what am I going to do about it? To be honest, I’m not sure. I guess the first step as they say is to recognize the situation. I do know, I will be buying a real, physical book on my next beach vacation! Perhaps a few digital blackouts are in order. I just don’t know, but I will try a few things – and be sure to share with you all what works!
So on that note, I did manage coaching a baseball game and working in the yard already today. I took this respite to not only write this article but also hide from the pollen for a bit. So back outside I go to enjoy a beautiful spring day here in Philadelphia. I may even leave my phone inside the house.
Taking the week off to lounge around the pools and beaches of St. Martin with the family. A foreign island like this offers the chance to go off the grid at least a little bit. In my instance, I’ve turned off my iPhone – both phone and data plans – mostly because the fees are excessive. That said, the two places we have stayed both offer WiFi which we have taken advantage of pretty extensively – from reviewing places to go, to checking on the tragedy in Boston, to yes, a little bit of work.
I guess the difference in this approach is the time off feels like it is on my terms. Both because my phone is off – literally – and because I have chosen to deliberately ignore my email most of the day – checking only once or twice daily. And even when answering a question or signing off on something, I am intentionally not inserting myself into the conversation.
The other major difference, is my new partner. Feeling comforted that a broad stroke of issues can be handled or even progressed while I am away is, well, comforting. Of course, there were plenty of folks to help with this in the past (including a terrible illness), but none with as much exposure to all facets if the business.
The bottom line, in my humble opinion, barring some extreme travel situations where you can’t even reach the grid, and with some good preparation before hand (i.e. a lousy week of double work prior) that gets you out of the critical path of issues, there is no need to go off the grid. In fact, the handiness of access to the Internet allows you to write quick posts like this one! And to assuage your guilt and/or anxiousness about not checking in on work (at least so much).
So, on that note, off to snorkel.