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I started working at an (education) business about a month ago. I'm a recent college graduate who moved six hours away from my hometown to pursue what I thought was my dream job with an emphasis on "teamwork" (so I was told) to find out that the great majority of the communication here is via e-mail (most face-to-face "communication" is done during lunch), despite that every single person at this company full-time is on-site and is in the same building for 8 hours a day.

This was a shock to me when I first started working here. On average, I get about 200 new e-mails a week, most of which are just basic "can you do this? Thanks." -type e-mails.

I'm not at all happy about this. I am considering pursuing a more analytic position (i.e., analyzing statistics). But then there's a thought in my mind that thinks: what if every company is like this in the business world?

Is it true that, given the field that I am pursuing [statistics], that I will not be communicating at all face-to-face? Or is the communication at my current workplace just an atypical example?

closed as off-topic by gnat, Jan Doggen, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Garrison Neely, Michael Grubey Aug 21 '14 at 9:35

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  • "Real questions have answers. Rather than explaining why your situation is terrible, or why your boss/coworker makes you unhappy, explain what you want to do to make it better. For more information, click here." – gnat, Jan Doggen, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Garrison Neely, Michael Grubey
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    Do you have any regular team meetings, etc? Emails are good for the purpose you described. Imagine if the 200 emails were instead 200 phone calls or 200 visits asking things get done. Would that be better?? Still, you need the right level of face to face comm too – Brandin Aug 19 '14 at 5:05
  • There are no regular team meetings. I would actually like a balance of talking to people and using e-mail, if you understand what I mean. I find it pointless to be on-site if my entire job can be done online, which is why I am especially frustrated with the fact that I moved 6 hours away from home for this job. – user26326 Aug 19 '14 at 5:08
  • I think emails are normal where they help but also team meetings. Would such meetings help? Call a meeting and make it a regular thing – Brandin Aug 19 '14 at 5:13
  • I don't have the authority to call a meeting, and I feel that trying to exercise such authority would be treated as seemingly bigheaded, which would be bad, especially given the lack of seniority I have and how I seem to be very different from the rest of the staff in this company. – user26326 Aug 19 '14 at 5:20
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    U dont see how authority matters, its more what your team thinks. Have you asked what they think about this? If theyre on board then after that you can find the proper way to make it happen. – Brandin Aug 19 '14 at 5:24
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There are workplaces where it is normal for email to be used a lot (including mine). Whether your workplace is making over- or under-use of email depends on what it is used for.

Here are some normal uses for email where people are working on the same site:

  • To leave a paper trail: a request to do a particular piece of work can get forgotten easily if verbally delivered. As well as possibly providing a memory aid for the receiver, the sender then also has a written record that the work request was indeed sent.

  • Conveying details: for example, we write a lot of technical emails containing very precise information (e.g. machine name, connection information) that it would be more awkward to communicate verbally or via paper

  • Sending documents: if you need to send a document to someone electronically (e.g. so that they can edit it), then really, sending it via email or putting it in some shared space are your two options, and with the latter one, you still have to do a communication to say that the document is there ready, in which case to specify the location, the previous case applies

  • Consideration to recipient: email is an asynchronous form of communication. Sometimes, co-workers on my team send emails even though we are in the same office. If I summon a co-worker verbally, I have disrupted his/her concentration and the time lost due to the disruption may be significantly greater than any time saving I get from asking verbally. For non-urgent things, if I send an email, it is considerate to the recipient as it allows him/her to respond at their own convenience.

  • Automated emails: communications that are sent automatically from a computer (e.g. bug reports, automated jobs failing) would be tricky to do without email.

  • Teamwork: for communications that several people need to be in on, it isn't always easy to get everyone together in the same room at the same time, even for a small group: a meeting may take a little more advance notice to arrange. Sometimes it's a lot easier to send an email to the group.

  • Broadcasting: sending information to the whole organisation or department, e.g. upcoming events

Obviously there are also other situations where non-email communication methods are more appropriate, but this should at least help you evaluate whether your workplace is making appropriate use of email or not.

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    I like this list but what about the other side of the coin? E.g when is team meeting or face-to-face appropriate, strengths? And how to encourage this. I think thats what OP is wanting - how to encourage this culture in an over-email culture? Maybe im reading into the Q though – Brandin Aug 19 '14 at 11:04
  • In some industries an email is also sent as a matter-of-record (similar to what you said about paper trail, but a bit more of a stringent requirement). – Burhan Khalid Aug 20 '14 at 6:20
  • Another reason is open plan offices. This study, for example, found a 70% fall in face-to-face interaction and an increase in electronic interaction following a move to an open-plan office. – Alex Hayward Jul 20 at 10:21
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Are the emails you're talking about an inefficient way to communicate the information they are trying to communicate? If someone is asking you to do something and you have a number of follow-up questions, for example, it's generally perfectly reasonable to pick up the phone or walk to someone's office or schedule a meeting to discuss requirements. If, on the other hand, an email is sufficient to communicate the request, most business environments will prefer that approach because it's the most efficient way to communicate information.

To some extent, in any sort of knowledge work, the amount of face-to-face communication you're going to have will generally increase over time as you work on higher level tasks where you're spending more and more time understanding requirements and discussing trade-offs. On the other hand, for someone just out of school, a lot of the tasks you're likely to be working on are already well-defined and don't involve a lot of independent judgments making them ideal to communicate via email. That's why middle managers, project managers, technical leads, etc. are in face-to-face meetings so often.

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I think you can create your own ways to get some face-to-face communication without disrupting the corporate culture. Take advantage of being the "new person" and reply to an email request and ask if you can schedule a time to discuss. Don't just drop in on people and disrupt their work. Being an analyst takes a high-level of concentration for many tasks and interruptions are counter-productive.

Use phone calls as an alternative.

You may find yourself at a particular company where everyone else has been there for so long, they already know each other enough to maintain their relationships with minimal conversation. This could also be a time of year when everyone is busier than others or in a state of being understaffed (That's why they hired you.).

I do think over-all, you're in a profession that requires a lot of individual work and may typically be preferred by people who are more introverted.

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