Office Email Like a Drug: Could You Give Up Your Fix?

Last Updated Oct 11, 2007 7:34 PM EDT

no-email.jpgLast year, the average corporate Internet user sent 37 emails daily, and that number is projected to increase 27 percent, up to 47 emails, this year. What's more, a recent study showed that many employees check their emails as many as 30 to 40 times an hour. That's a lot of time spent checking for, reading, and responding to messages -- but it makes it a lot easier to get work done, right? That's what employees at U.S. Cellular argued when COO Jay Ellison decided to impose an email ban -- except for urgent customer inquiries -- on Fridays.
And he isn't the only executive who sees the value in this decree. Managers believe workers use email to avoid solving problems, and in many cases, short, poorly phrased emails only exacerbate interpersonal issues between coworkers. Email doesn't just affect working relationships; it also limits the scope of client interactions, and oftentimes, a personal touch is what differentiates a company from its competition.

One might think reducing the time spent responding to endless email chains would be liberating, but that wasn't the case for U.S. Cellular employees, or workers at other companies that imposed similar bans. In fact, many employees reacted like addicts going through withdrawal symptoms; fighting to feed their dependency and angry at the prospect of letting go. (Not surprising considering 64 percent of Americans say they spend more time with their computer than with their significant other.)

Managers weren't entirely prepared for the resistance they met, but staying the course proved beneficial. At Deloitte & Touche's regulatory and capital-markets consulting practice, weekend email bans have allowed some employees to reclaim their freedom from an endless flow of incoming messages. And at PBD Worldwide Fulfillment Services in Alpharetta, Georgia, the ban helped facilitate a sense of camaraderie between coworkers that often gets lost in virtual translation.

If you find this interesting, print it out, walk over to someone else's desk, and ask them what they think. You know, using actual spoken words.

(No Email image by tomeppy)