The amount of time we spend communicating is outstanding. There have been multiple studies to find the actual amount of our waking lives spent communicating, and the percentage of time we spend in each division of communication. The article, “Measurement of Time Spent Communicating,” is the result of a communication study of employees of a research and development laboratory. The study was based on two techniques: direct observation, and questionnaires. How much time do people spend communicating at work? How much time do people spend using machines at work? This useful information can help to improve the amount of work done in a certain amount of time. If people spend more time communicating to get a job done, then our communication skills possibly need improvement. The talking people do is related with their work output. The same goes for machinery; if we spend more time in person-machine interaction, improving machinery would be the main advance to improving jobs.
People were observed at one instance in time in offices of one person to five people, some at supervisory levels, laboratories, hallways, and conference rooms. The observation data was divided into to groups’ time spent communicating, and time spent working with equipment. These categories were subdivided in different types of communication activities, including face-to-face communication, telephone communication, reading, and writing, and different types of equipment uses, including lab equipment, office machinery, and an other category. Pre-tests showed the three trained clerks could classify the behavior of the employees reliably. Sampling moments were random and unbiased, only avoiding break times and everyone’s lunch, and are correspondent to the entire working day.
The questionnaires were placed at the desks of all the people in the sampling areas, offices, and laboratories. The questionnaires were pre-tested to make sure the wording was understood, and the ordering of questions didn’t change the results. The employees were to answer seven questions all percentages that should add up to 100% of the working week. The questionnaires that were returned and did not add up to between 90% and 110% were disregarded. 4,000 questionnaires were distributed, and 2626, or 66%, were returned and usable.
Overall, the common results of the observations and questionnaires were recognizable. The observation method is more accurate, and unbiased, so the main differences in the two sets of data are explained by people underestimating the time they spend communicating face-to-face, and overestimating the time they spend reading and writing. The questionnaire and observed data representing how much time is spent speaking on the telephone, working with lab equipment and office machinery, and other were relatively the same. Another observation is that the amount of time spent communicating depends on how many people are in the office.
The fewer people, the more communication went on. This could be due to the fact that many one or two person offices were supervisory level, and therefore had to communicate to employees more often. All offices engaged in face-to-face communication more than in laboratories. Although, time spent working with equipment is only 13%, even though the research study population is a research and development laboratory. This leads us to the conclusion that communication with people, not equipment, is the center of activity for most professionals, administrators, clerks, secretaries and technicians.