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Local Hospital Creates 'Email Free Fridays'

BOSTON (CBS) - When it comes to work, email is both a blessing and a curse. Often, it feels like managing that constant flow of electronic messages is a job unto itself.

An overflowing inbox is a constant frustration for Carol Burns, chief clinical dietician at Beth Israel Deaconess in Plymouth. "It's just when you set aside time to work on a project or do something, and instead, you are reading 37 emails about things that aren't that essential."

By one estimate, as much as 28% of a worker's time on the job can now be consumed by email.

The hospital did a survey and found workers felt overwhelmed by unnecessary email. Those findings led to the creation of "Email Free Fridays". External emails are allowed, but workers are discouraged from sending anything internally.

Ron Rutherford, the hospital's chief information officer, said "This helps us by encouraging face to face communication. So on Fridays, the thought is that folks won't send emails, and instead they will get up and walk down the hall and talk to their peers rather than sit behind their desk."

Michelle Roccia, a human resource executive at Winter Wyman, believes this a great idea, particularly because of the limitations of electronic communication.

"Email and IM have no tone," explained Roccia. She said that leaves messages open to misinterpretation. "You are going to take it in a negative tone, and maybe that wasn't the intent."

The goal at the hospital is to eliminate that kind of confusion by getting people talking and interacting. As Burns explained, "There are people that I have probably communicated with for years who I have no idea what they look like, and they don't work that far away from me in the building."

So far, the reviews are good. Even from Rutherford, who on a Wednesday had two different email programs running. "It has turned out to be a great success . . . maybe we will start a trend."

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