e-mail overload

Is it really goodbye e?

Posted on Updated on

laptop_mail_pc_1600_wht_2103People have been predicting the end of e-mail for a while with some companies preferring staff to use social media apps instead (which seem like jumping from the frying pan into the fire to me).

Undoubtedly we spend too much time on e-mails of which 80% are probably of no value whatsoever. Some experts say we spend 36 days a year at work answering them and that there are 2.4 million sent every second.

Some companies have already starting to fight back against this insidious menace. Atos, a French company, has promised to end the use of e-mails by next year.

The Halton Housing Trust in Cheshire is coming to the end of a two-year programme to wean staff off them because staff were spending 40% of their time e-mailing. I actually like their approach limiting “reply to all” and using “cc”. Even better naming and shaming the most prolific e-mailers!

Procure Plus, a property service company, has also introduced e-mail etiquette after finding that staff couldn’t be bothered leaving their desks to speak to colleagues. Now they have to phone or visit in person before they are allowed to e-mail.

Volkswagen turns off its server at 1730 and Daimler stops staff getting e-mails when on holiday. Sensible Germans.

A media management CEO says the problem will resolve itself anyway as use by millennials has declined 50% since 2010 as they are using social media networks instead. And why is that an improvement? I’d suggest getting all staff to lock their smartphones and tablets in a locker when they arrive at work so they can actually do some! It also sounds a bit ageist to me. Do only older workers use e-mails now?

Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at Manchester Business School who has spoken about the stressful effects of e-mail overload in the past, is working with a number of organisations on e-mail projects. He said “The UK was quick to adapt digital technology and the World Economic Forum says the UK has the highest digital use per capita of the major economies. Smartphones have just made things worse with people constantly checking their inbox wherever they are – during family dinner, on holiday, everywhere. It’s affecting everyone badly, their health and happiness and also their productivity

He says the problem has got so bad that people think doing e-mails is a good day’s work!

FYI there’s a new term for people ignoring you to answer or check their smartphone: it’s called phubbing (i.e. snubbing by phone).

David Burkus, associate professor in management at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma agrees with professor Cooper. “Clearing out your inbox can make you feel like you’re ultra-productive but unless your job description is solely to delete e-mails you’re just fooling yourself

So do you want “e-mail deleter” to be your job title or do you want to take control? How about leaving an auto-message when you go home or on holiday saying you won’t be able to deal with any e-mails and ask them to contact you when you are in work?

And that backlog in your in-tray? Declare a moratorium and tell people you’re deleting them all. If that seems too drastic do what some people do and ignore e-mails that you’re only copied in to. If it’s really meant for you they should have sent it to you directly.

Source for main story The Times