Owner and founder Prime Entry
Columnist
Share this content

Are you an email addict in need of rehab?

The problem with communication today is that everyone wants to communicate. For some accountants, this need to instantly respond to clients is causing mental health issues.

8th Nov 2019
Owner and founder Prime Entry
Columnist
Share this content
White Chat Bubble With Email Symbol On Blue Background
istock_MicroStockHub_aw

One of the big daily goals most accountants have is to clear their emails and incoming messages and reply to everyone quickly and efficiently.

As I went around the UK speaking at the IRIS Autumn roadshows, it was evident that it is not just email that's the problem. Many other communication tools are creeping into our lives, from WhatsApp and Slack to social media, never mind the mobile number being given out to all and sundry with the tagline “Call me any time, I’m here to help”.

The evidence is clear. Most are simply failing at the unachievable goal of managing all this. For some, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s causing some sort of mental health issue.

Are you getting your dopamine fix?

Many of the platforms we use have notifications, either visual and/or sound. Every time we see a new message we get a dopamine hit: we think someone needs us, someone likes us, we feel loved and each time we get our fix…

According to Wikipedia, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter in our brains — a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine pathways, one of which plays a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behaviour.  

The platforms know this and use it to keep us using their product. It’s good for their business.

The endless quest to get stuff done

Meanwhile, marking emails as unread (which is really your hidden to-do list), and replying as fast as you can to each one coming in creates a negative, endless quest to get stuff done. In reality, if the emails or notifications stopped pinging on your phone or laptop, you know you would soon question if something was broken. It's like going cold turkey: you’d probably start craving the next fix.

From personal experience, I once had an employee who was obsessed with keeping emails tidy and spent endless hours filing and deleting the emails, all in the quest to be efficient.

Communication guilt

Then there’s the endless back and forth with conversations. I’ve seen people using the email subject line only to communicate and others using one-word answers, which leads to a back and forth of short, badly communicated statements.

By far the biggest challenge I’ve seen is the overwhelming feeling of guilt when you don't reply to a message within your own pre-decided time frame. For some, it’s a few minutes. For others, it’s within the hour or the day.

Face the issue head-on

Everyone tries different tactics, but few have looked at the issue of communications as a whole and attacked this issue head-on.

In my opinion, the problem with communication is the lack of rules.

With running a paperless office, the first step is to stop printing. With communication, the first step is to stop communicating.

And there lies the deep problem: we all want to be heard. We all want to get whatever it is off our virtual desk and on to someone else to increase the feeling of job satisfaction. Goals and task achieved, a few more shots of dopamine and put our head on the pillow at night and say “I did well today…”

Set your communication rules

Ask yourself: what are your communication rules? If you make statements like “Contact me anytime, I’m here to help…” then maybe that’s the start of the problem.

When someone contacts you at 8.00pm on a Sunday you then face your next rule: when do you reply?

After all, it’s your rules, and you decide what behaviour you will accept in your life.

Replies (4)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By rodvoyce
08th Nov 2019 14:47

Hi Kevin,
Good article. You're right about using the inbox as the action list. The other problem you didn't mention is the filing chaos caused by emails. Users don't have time to copy them to client files, so the client file is always out-of-date. Security is non-existent because users can delete emails and maybe not even know they've done it. If users are expected to manually file emails they won't do it because it's a pain and they're too busy. If they do it then time is wasted. All these problems are solved if you have the right technology e.g. Logical Office CRM does the email filing for you, providing a single view of client communications, and saving a ton of wasted time. Removing the filing of emails does make life a whole lot easier for harassed accountants, who didn't qualify to waste time filing and searching overloaded inboxes.
Rod Voyce

Thanks (0)
Replying to rodvoyce:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
11th Nov 2019 11:06

****The above post is an advert*****

The poster of the above post fails to mention his connection to the product being promoted within the post.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By AndrewV12
11th Nov 2019 11:54

Emails are great, but just like the internet its the best thing in the world its the worst thing in the world, it annoys me how unwanted emails still get through the net.
But the best thing about emails is the are neither formal (as in a letter) or informal as in a scrappy note or phone call, (I am unsure if an email is legally binding).
Its great treading between formal and informal, you don't have to worry about presentation or grammar rules.

Thanks (0)
Replying to AndrewV12:
Kevin Whitehouse
By Kevin Whitehouse
13th Nov 2019 16:27

It's more than just email, it's all inbound communication and more about rules and what behaviour you are prepared to accept. Being annoyed is an emotional reaction many will also have.

Is it the communication that is wrong or the reaction and emotions we attach to them?

Thanks (0)