Yes, Voicemail Sucks. But is the Alternative Even Worse?

January 10th 2015

Mariah Craven

Coca-Cola made a move that’ll probably have office workers across America texting “Grinning Face” emojis.

The company ended the office voicemail program at company headquarters in Atlanta. Callers who get an out-of-office message will be invited to call back later or try to use another form of contact. They will not be asked to leave their name and number after the beep.

Bloomberg reports that an internal memo last month gave Coke employees a pretty good reason for the big change: “to simplify the way we work and increase productivity.” Employees who wanted to keep their voicemail were given that opportunity – about 6 percent opted to do so.

Voicemail use has been on the decline for a while now. Back in 2009 – a technological lifetime ago – book publicist Yen Cheong told the New York Times that after becoming frustrated by the many steps it took to listen to voice messages, she’d switched to email and text messaging. She’s not alone. Internet phone giant Vonage reports continuing declines in both voice messages recorded and checked.

A move toward more texting in the workplace seems pretty logical. The Pew Research Internet Project found that 95 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds text and send or receive an average of 87.7 text messages each day. As more texting-savvy people enter the workforce, a shift towards business use seems inevitable.

But is the death of voicemail a good thing?

One can’t help but wonder, however, if that’s good for young workers. The great thing about office voicemails is that they can stay at the office. Chances are, your cellphone is with you all of the time. So that text from your boss, client, or co-worker is pinging in your pocket whether it’s late Friday night or early Sunday morning.

When you’re starting out in your career or are at the bottom of the ladder at your company, how comfortable would you be not responding to that text until Monday morning? As the lines between our work and personal lives get blurrier, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for workers of all ages to achieve that ever more elusive work-life balance.

That’s why some companies are putting policies in place that actively encourage employees to seek that balance. Patagonia’s head offices are locked after 8 p.m. and on weekends, and employees are allowed to set their own hours. Chicago’s The Habitat Company urges its staff to stay off of email after work hours.

Coke may be leading the way when it comes to the future of business communication – but for a truly revolutionary change in how we work and live, it’s time to take a look at a much bigger picture. Otherwise, employers may be in for some burnt out workers and “Angry Face” texts down the road.