By Claire West

New research has revealed that two-thirds (66 percent) of U.K. office workers think that communication in their offices could be improved via the tools they use. Satisfaction falls as company size increases: Less than half (45 percent) of office workers in micro businesses[1] agree that their communication tools are very effective at enabling efficient working. This slides to 31 percent for small businesses[2] and to 16 percent for mid-sized companies[3]. However, enterprises4 buck this trend somewhat, with just over a quarter (26 percent) of their workers saying their tools are very effective.

The research, commissioned by Cisco, provider of Cisco WebEx™ online meetings, combined quantitative research from Opinion Matters, which polled more than 1,000 U.K. office workers, and a study from Mindlab International. That study measured the brain activity of 24 workers whilst they conducted office-based tasks using four communication tools: telephone conferencing, instant messaging, video conferencing and Web conferencing.

In the majority of situations, the Mindlab International research found visual communication tools to be the most effective in a business environment, measured by accuracy, efficiency and user experience. Visual communication was followed by telephone conferencing and instant messaging; however, the research highlighted that each technology’s performance varied depending on the type of task.

“Far from this being a case of a ‘poor workman blames his tools’, our research found that each communication tool was effective for certain business-related tasks, but that these tools must be deployed in the right situation for maximum success,” said Duncan Smith, managing director at Mindlab International.

Alongside communication not being at its best in U.K. businesses, the Opinion Matters survey also found that e-mail was the favoured way of passing off work to others. Forty percent of workers said that in the previous week a co-worker had used e-mail to delegate work that those co-workers should have done themselves.

“E-mail has a very valuable place in business and helps teams work well together; however, it does need to be supplemented with other methods of communication, which can sometimes be overlooked,” said James Campanini, managing director for Cisco WebEx solutions in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

“Tools which are video-enabled, such as Web and video conferencing, help to build trust in the workplace, as communications are more interactive, engaging and personal,” Campanini adds. “By being able to take in body language, eye contact and multi-way conversations, the business environment is automatically more collaborative, helping to speed up decision making. In addition, people should consider that one of the most powerful ways of communicating is by using a combination of tools.”