In the workplace setting, voicemail has been a long-used tool. In the past, many businesses relied heavily on its accessibility because the ability to leave and retrieve messages was a great time saver. How many times throughout the workday have people historically played telephone tag with others?

Even if you didn't reach the person you needed to speak with, issues were easily handled through voicemails, which was a helpful way to get things accomplished.

The Tides Are Changing

How useful is voicemail these days? Do we even still need it? An article in PC Magazine suggests it is time to put voicemail on retirement (however, acknowledges its interoperability is invaluable). [1]  Others point out ways voicemail is archaic and hinders productivity. In 2015 corporate giants PMorgan Chase and Coca-Cola eliminated voicemail for the bulk of their employees.  [2], [3]

Of course, email and texting is always an option. But even in today's digital age, even if some are deeming it antiquated, voicemail can still be a little more personal. It really depends on who you are trying to reach and why; using voicemail gives you the opportunity to be creative when connecting with another person.

While voicemail is viewed as "yesterday's tech", it's still very much in practice today. That being the case, there are a few things to think about when using voicemail in a business capacity.

Recording Your Away Message

Creating an away message is important - don't leave a generic impersonal message or, worse,  the default recording. When recording your voicemail away message, speak clearly. Short and sweet is best, it is a good idea to only state the basic information you need to convey. As you record your message, keep your tone professional. Surprisingly enough, some people put vague or casual sounding messages on their voicemail recordings which comes across as unprofessional. A good rule of thumb is to imagine the response if your boss or the CEO of your company was calling. Is it a message you'd be comfortable with him or her hearing?

Office telephone
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Will the days of voicemail come to pass? Probably at some point, but it's still alive and kicking, at least for now. That being the case, it's a good idea to continue to follow good practices when using it.

Away Message is Up to Date

Be sure to keep your voicemail message up to date. It can be frustrating for a caller to get a recording that says, "Hello, this is Pam Smith. Today is Thursday, Nov. 15 and I will be out of the office". Sounds great, right? Sure, but the problem is that absence was three days ago. People are going to feel less confident that you'll receive and/or respond to the message if it doesn't look as if you are on top of things. If these are potential clients, remember first impressions are everything.

Retrieving Your Messages

It is helpful to keep a pen and paper near your phone. This way you can take notes as you retrieve your messages - this can be a great time saver and avoids having to go back and listen to messages again in order to jot down names, telephone numbers or other important information. As you take notes, highlight which calls are urgent and need an immediate response, and then note which calls are less of a priority, or ones that can wait indefinitely or be discarded. Keep in mind any messages that are time sensitive and put those on the priority list.

Brainstorming. Using Post-its
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While paper is often considered to be so yesterday also, when transcribing voicemails, these notes are valuable.  (I still can't live without my sticky notes!)

Don't Use Your Voicemail as a Storage Bin

Don't use your voicemail box as a storage bin, as this creates inefficiency. Extract the information you need and then delete the bulk of your messages; if you save too many of them, it clogs up your box and gets time consuming to wade through later on. For better efficiency, learn how to access your messages from remote locations. If accessing your voicemail requires a separate dial-in phone number, memorize it or carry it with you.

The beauty of modern voicemail is that it's retrievable from anywhere. Unlike days of yesteryear, you don't have to physically click the button on an answering machine to hear what messages have been left for you while you were busy or away from your desk. Regular checking of voicemail when you are away from your physical location ensures you don't miss important messages and you can respond to people in a courteous and timely fashion. This enables you to be able to give clients, customers, colleagues and others the fast responses people have become accustomed to these days.

Man input password on mobile phone
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Mobile has highly increased accessibility

Leaving Messages for Others

Speak slowly and clearly, and don't forget to leave your name and a number where you can be reached. When leaving your message, you'll want to be brief.  In today's fast-paced world, people often don't have patience for long, rambling messages. As you leave your comments, it is a good idea to give a short reason why you are calling and let the recipient know whether or not a callback is needed.

Voicemail speak clearly meme
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In the office setting where traditional phones are still likely being used, one of the best ways to learn how to use voicemail effectively is to take the time to read the manual. There are many convenient features that voicemail offers that are likely listed in the pamphlet that usually accompanies the service. Not only will you learn the technical ins and outs of the program your company's system uses, but you'll also learn different ways to help manage and increase efficiency by strategically using some of its tools, this way voicemail does not have to get in the way of your productivity.