Do you really need to send that email? Join that chat? Text your boss? Schedule a Zoom?

March 2, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources, ,

Somehow it seems the more applications we have at our disposal, the more complicated our world becomes.

To match our complex organization, we have a diverse set of communication channels, each with a variety of flavors (brands) to choose from. To top that off, we are now being offered an array of cloud-based Microsoft 365 applications, including Teams, which has embedded versions of chat, meeting, planning and other collaborative tools all in one.

But, when used selectively — and when supported by rules of engagement, or team norms — these tools can help reduce the stress caused by too many emails and inefficient meetings.

To help reduce that stress, the Stress + Burnout Task Team, commissioned by Michigan Medicine CEO Marschall S. Runge, M.D., Ph.D., is sharing the following six tips, and a related communication channel chart and team template to help individuals and teams navigate today’s digital landscape to reach a better work/life balance.

Six tips for selecting communication channels

  • Agree to rules of engagement with teams you collaborate with frequently. It should only take one meeting (Zoom, Teams or in person) to agree about which channels work best for your team. Then consistently follow these norms.
  • The simplest forms of communication (text, chat) are appropriate for quick feedback or to ask questions about projects, knowing the receiver will understand the context. Don’t use an instant message (IM) to convey an important or complex message. If you are using more than three IM’s or chats, or find yourself writing in full paragraphs to explain your message, switch to emails.
  • Conversing back and forth in emails too often about the same subject? Your receiver(s) may need more context or clarity. Switch to meetings (Zoom, Teams or in person) when more meaningful conversations, such as brainstorming or decision making, are required.
  • However, don’t call a meeting every time you need a team’s feedback or approvals. Use sharing platforms (Teams, Google, OneDrive) to collaborate and save valuable focus time for more involved work.  
  • Don’t share the same messages or documents on multiple platforms, such as sending documents in a non-cloud-based document through email while also sharing it with the same project group on Teams. This causes confusion and time wasted as group members wonder where to go next. (see first tip)
  • No matter what channel you use, be clear about your intent. Is it a call to action? An urgent request? Seeking feedback? Just an FYI? Make that clear up front using a subject line, chat topic or agenda.

The following chart gives the basics of each communication channel, its uses and suggested norms. While it may not address every option for team communication at Michigan Medicine, it can serve as a starting point to help teams consider how to customize their rules of engagement or norms related to their available communication tools.

This chart, along with a team template to help groups build their own norms are available, along with other helpful resources about reducing emails and meetings on the Well-being Webpage.

The following resources are also available to better understand and manage Microsoft 365 Teams and Outlook:


MLearning: Getting Started: Microsoft Teams at Michigan Medicine

Microsoft: Teams Training | Teams HelpQuick Start Guide

LinkedIn Learning: Teams Training


MLearning: Level Up: Save Time and Enhance Your Productivity Using Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft: Training | Help | Quick Start Guide 

LinkedIn Learning: Outlook Training