Should We Really Be Texting for Work?

Those teenagers have aged into a professional generation more reliant on texting. Ashlyn Shadden was a high schooler in the early 2000s when she got her first cellphone, a pink Nokia that she mostly used to text her boyfriend. Ms. Shadden, 34, who now runs a clothing boutique in St. Jo, Texas, said she had noticed that a lot of other people around her age prefer to do business over text.

Ms. Shadden was once texting a vendor about restocking some clothing items when she got a picture of the vendor’s dog, with an explanation that the dog would soon be put down.

“I’ve never met her, and she’s never met me,” she said. “When you are texting with someone just businesswise, it still has the possibility of that getting a little more personal.”

Matt Wheatley, 32, who lives in Manhattan and works at a legal-tech company, is a fan of the work text because it allows him to build a quicker, looser rapport with his business contacts. His texts to them are peppered with “hahaha,” “lol” and emojis. “The little fire emoji is pretty work-safe,” he said.

Work texts can easily veer into uncomfortable or invasive territory.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, more clients have asked Lauren Young Durbin, a career coach in Richmond, Va., how to keep their co-workers from texting them too much. Workers give out their personal phone numbers in an effort to seem friendly and accessible, she said, then come to regret it once they realize the nozzle cannot be turned off.

Gabrielle Blackwell, 32, who works in sales for a software company in Austin, tries to keep business conversations confined to work-specific channels like Slack and email.