Texting in business: Not a good idea

Texting has become so commonplace that it's now being used to conduct business. It may be convenient but email is almost always a better form of communication in the workplace.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
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Texting. We all do it. It's so easy to fire off a quick text message to communicate with family or friends. It's become so commonplace that many of us are now doing it for work. But that's not a good idea.

Text messaging has come a long way since the early days. In the beginning carriers charged us per message and stories were commonplace detailing how texters were getting massive phone bills. Over time the carriers had to bend to customers' wishes, leading to near free service today.

Free messaging led most of us to start texting all the time. It's an easy way to get in touch with personal acquaintances without worrying if they'll get the message right away. This ease of use has led texting to make its way to the workplace.

Communicating with coworkers is important, even if a given message seems innocuous. If it has to do with work then every message should be treated the same as any other, and that means it is important. Email is much better for this than texting.

There are several reasons why work communications should almost always be done with email and not via text message:

  • Text messages can give the impression that what's being conveyed to a coworker is not important.
  • Work communications done with both texting and email don't send a cohesive image for work teams.
  • Email leaves a digital paper trail for both sender and recipient that resides with all email about work.

Note that texting is fine for personal messages such as telling Bob where you'll meet him for lunch. It's not necessary to never text at work, but only for messages that aren't work-related. If it's about a project or status, for example, then it should go into an email.

The lure to send text messages is particularly strong for those using their own phones in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) shop. That urge should be pushed back in favor of the email. In the event of a legal situation which is more common than it should be in this litigious atmosphere, workers don't want the only record of a conversation being on a personal phone.

While texting coworkers about work projects is bad enough, sending them to affiliates in other companies is even worse. The three rules noted above are even more pertinent for communications to those on the outside. Put it in an email, it sends a much better image of you and your company.

Some companies have incorporated texting into the heart of work practices and it might be impossible to forego them in such an environment. If that's the case it's a good idea to follow up the texts with email to get them in the corporate record. That's especially the case if document attachments are involved. If a text is received asking for the latest financial spreadsheet for example, follow up the text message with it attached with an email with the document also attached. 

Texting is convenient and we all do it, often as a first line of communications. Even so, the more formal method of using email is almost always the better method to have business conversations. It keeps the record straight as indicated, and sets a more professional tone for dealing with colleagues.

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