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Manage Your Emails

14th Jan 2010
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I came across the following article recently.....

'No email' Fridays... or just ‘double email' Mondays?

There was a great episode of BBC's Money Programme a few weeks ago.  It was an episode that focused on email and the stress it causes in offices. 

We live in the "Information Age", where information has never been so readily available.  In fact, our people these days are bombarded.  David Allen, the author of "Gettings Things Done" was asked in an interview what's changed in the world and his response was "Nothing.  Just the speed and volume of whatever we're dealing with".  I think this information overload - from email, and indeed from all sides! - is a much bigger challenge than we realize.

Research carried out by the Universities of Glasgow and Paisley has discovered that one third of email users get stressed by the heavy volume of e-mails they received. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7049275.stm)

One of the common solutions talked about in helping to solve this issue of email overload is the idea of a regular ‘no email days': that is, no internal emails allowed for an entire day.  The idea is based on 3 key assumptions:

  • That email is too readily available and people send more emails than they need to
  • That email is not always the best or only medium to communicate information, even if it may often be the most effective
  • That people need rules - either self-initiated or boss-initated - to change behavior.

I think we would probably all agree with these assumptions, but I wonder whether ‘no email days' really is the best solution. 

Nestlé Rowntree was the first company in the UK to introduce such a policy, after management were informed that employees were spending more time typing than talking to each other; they also found examples of people sending e-mails to colleagues who were just a small distance across from them, rather than actually speaking to them directly. (http://www.globalideasbank.org/site/bank/idea.php?ideaId=4312)

When e-mail behaviour was tracked it was found that many were checking their inbox as often as 30 to 40 times per hour. The volume of e-mails has exploded in recent years with over 170 billion now being sent daily around the globe, according to technology market researcher Radicati Group. That's two million every second! (http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=2939232&page=1)

Intel have taken a different approach.  Since email is not forbidden on the Friday; the idea is to solve the problem articulated by Intel CEO Paul Otellini in a recent interview in Financial Times, where he criticizes "the fact that engineers two cubicles apart send an e-mail rather than get up and talk. The whole nature of sitting down and hashing out ideas and collaborating is a bit stymied by the construct of the cubicles". While other projects explore changes to the cubicle paradigm at Intel, they looked at a direct attack on the over-reliance of email, rather than tokenistically banning it.

"In our new pilot, we encourage the members of an organic group to focus each Friday on direct conversation - face to face or by telephone - for interpersonal communication within the group. Processing email from other groups is OK; sending email within the group is also OK - when it is necessary. But as much as possible, they will try to walk across the aisle or pick up the phone. While this may seem a small thing, experiments done in other companies showed a great impact once people started exploring communication with the human voice". (http://blogs.intel.com/it/2007/10/quiet_time_on_track_no_email_d.php)

The US firm PBD launched a no email-Friday four months ago and have reported that it has been a massive success, with benefits including increased performance, happier customers and quicker problem solving. (http://www.pulsewebhosting.com/news/no-email-days-a-success/143/)
 

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