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The Evolution of Business Communication

Graphic photo of an old telephone against a white background and many lined mobile phones
by Amanda Cupp on September 11th, 2017

Face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, intercom systems and memos—early business communication was at times tenuous and the message didn’t always reach its intended recipient, in a timely manner, anyway. Over time, communications methods became more refined, and now with a click of a mouse, or a quick finger swipe on a smartphone, anyone can send a message to numerous recipients at once. So, just how has interoffice communication evolved over the years? Let’s take a walk down memory lane and see just how far we’ve come.

MEMOS AND MESSAGES.

In very early days, companies got pretty creative with methods of transmitting information between employees and management. In larger companies, women would wear roller skates and skate up and down the office aisles, carrying messages between telephone operators and supervisors.

Secretaries would take dictation from their bosses and type them using carbon paper, to make copies. This was tedious and time consuming, especially if you weren’t a very good typist. One error could wreck an entire memo, causing you to have to start over.

Later, when the mimeograph machine made its debut, a single memo could be typed then reproduced multiple times and distributed to employees. This was still time consuming, not to mention messy. Plus, someone had to take to time to carry the memos and hand them out to each employee.

INTERCOMS AND TELEPHONES.

Intercoms made some communication a little easier. Secretaries shared them with bosses so they could save time by communicating information such as visitors or incoming phone calls. They were not very private though, and anyone within earshot could easily overhear what was being said. When telephones made their appearance on individual desks, it was considered revolutionary. People could discuss projects and set up meetings without having to send messages back and forth, or go find the person to talk to them face-to-face. Even though this was considered cutting edge technology at the time, there was still no way to quickly and efficiently communicate with several employees at once.

MOBILE PHONES.

You can’t talk about business communication without mentioning the mobile phone. This early cousin of our compact cell phones and smartphones was mammoth by comparison. The case was the size of a shoebox, and the handset was the same size as a regular landline phone. It had a cord that linked the handset to the box, so you were still tethered to this behemoth of a phone.

CELL PHONES AND EMAIL.

Once mobile phone technology was created, it didn’t take long for it to become compact and much more user friendly. Around the same time, computers (that began as enormous units that were not office friendly) also downsized and became more “people oriented.” Now secretaries could trade in their typewriters for word processors, and mimeograph machines were replaced with groundbreaking copiers that reproduced a hundred pages in a matter of minutes.

THE INTERNET AND SMARTPHONES.

When the internet made its debut there were skeptics, some said it wouldn’t last, but the internet has only grown and flourished and made our lives oh, so much easier—mainly because it introduced us to email. Now a manager could write an email and send it to multiple employees all at once and they would receive it almost immediately. It was a real game changer in the business world.

Still, the employees who were in the field were left to rely on cell phones and would have to wait until they returned to the office to check emails. Smartphones changed the way employees and employers communicated. Suddenly, everything a person would need for communication: text, email, instant messaging apps, you name it, was right in the palm of their hand.

It has only grown from there. Now employees can download apps on their smartphones that allow their supervisors to transmit emergency messaging or vital information to then immediately. What will they think of next?