Electronic communications have come along way. It began in 1867 with the invention of the typewriter, which eliminated the need for handwritten business letters and documents. Then the invention of the telephone in 1876 reduced the need for face-to-face meetings. Today we have numerous types of new technology, which enable us to do business faster and more efficient than ever before. These technologies include fax, e-mail, teleconferencing/videoconferencing, and voice messages. Each of these forms of electronic communications has advantages and disadvantages, and requires the use of proper workplace etiquette.
Facsimile transmissions, which are more often called fax, are an important form of electronic communications in the business world even though they are used less frequently than telephones and e-mail. Fax capabilities have many advantages. The most important advantage is the widespread availability. A fax is inexpensive to send and generally costs no more than the price of a telephone call. Faxing information saves time and money. A fax can be used to send just about anything. With a fax machine it is easy to send drawings, charts, graphs, words, and pictures that would take far longer to explain over a telephone.
Disadvantages of sending faxes include the inability to send two-sided sided, or duplexed, documents automatically. Another problem is that a low quality or dark original may not transmit well. Confidentiality is also an issue when the fax machine is located in a common office area (Ford & deMontravel 2001). It is important to use care in deciding which documents are appropriate to send through a company fax machine. If a personal document is faxed, for example a résumé, both the sender and receiver should remain at the machine until the document is transmitted so that it does not fall into the wrong hands (Carlin & Ervin 2003).
Faxes require certain rules or guidelines for proper etiquette. First check to see that a fax is an appropriate means of communication for the type of document to be sent and make sure to obtain the correct fax number. Next check the quality of the original to be sent (including contrast, spelling, punctuation, etc.) to ensure that it will make a high quality transmission. Another important step is to call ahead of sending the fax if the fax and the phone share the same line (Ford & deMontravel 2001). Always include a cover sheet with the senders name, telephone number, fax number, and number of pages that are to be sent. As a courtesy not more than 15 pages should be sent without getting the receivers approval in advance (Ford & deMontravel 2001). Finally it is important not to fax personal documents unless the receiver knows to wait for them (Ford & deMontravel 2001).
Electronic mail, which is more often called e-mail, is the fastest way to communicate with individuals or businesses in writing. It has many advantages including the speed of transmission and the ability to eliminate unnecessary phone calls or "phone tag," Another advantage of e-mail is the capability to send messages to multiple people at the same time. E-mail often works well in office settings to announce meetings, events, and deadlines. Many software packages allow the ability to send and receive charts graphs, and more through e-mail.
A disadvantage to using electronic mail can include, for example, a lack of confidentiality. Some companies today monitor their employees e-mail activities. Another disadvantage is the unreliability of computer systems. If a computer system goes down, then messages cannot be sent or received. Problems today are spam, and unwanted "junk mail." These can become a nuisance by filling mailbox and can cause important messages to be overlooked or deleted. E-mail attachments are also a source of many computer viruses that disrupt the business environment. In some business...