Is it time to regulate your email use for a more productive work day? Some of the leading global corporations think so.
Everyone of us has our own personal chief communications officer, also known as a smart phone, who sits in our pocket all day and most often evenings too, pinging alerts with a regularity that is impossible to ignore. Now companies are understanding the damage this is doing their employees and the negative effect it’s having on their productivity. The task of managing our bulging inbox has stopped us getting on with the work everyone is emailing about.
At the British Psychological Society’s annual conference last year, Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University who previously advised the Government Office for Science about mental health in the workplace, said “A compulsion to deal with email messages had caused the UK’s employees to become less productive than many of their international counterparts.” He referenced recent figures from the Office for National Statistics that indicate the UK has the second-lowest rate of productivity out of the leading G7 industrial nations – putting it behind the US, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but ahead of Japan.
For many people, an email sent is a job done – and we all love ticking through a to-do list – but often an email is merely the initiation rather the completion of a task, and can add unnecessary steps to a simple action. In 2011, French IT services company Atos hit the headlines when it banned the use of internal emails altogether, encouraging employees in the same building to get up and talk to each other (now, there’s a novel idea!). Atos’s chief information officer Marc Mosthav recently told the BBC the company had stuck with the idea. “And the whole practice of copying in everyone into a message in order to cover your own back has also been reduced – it really changes the way people think about work communications.”
Once you change your email usage, it impacts your entire work flow. Sara Holoubek, CEO and founder of Luminary Labs, a consultancy focused on operationalising innovation, says, “Eighteen months ago, I asked my team to do the unthinkable: stop emailing after 6pm and on the weekends. Hailing from places such as McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Samsung, and Omnicom, staff was somewhat skeptical that everything could be done in a 40-hour work week. But these are clearly smart people, and so in short order we prioritised tasks, right- sized meetings, and modelled the behaviour from the top down. Nothing broke, and to this day, I start the day off getting work done instead of answering email.” With a growing number of Millennials accounting for the working population, and therefore their desire for more work/life balance taking top priority, employees are fondly looking back to the days of rigid working hours. Ideally an environment where people can work when they are at their best – accommodating both the night owl and the early riser – will be the most productive, allowing core working hours to be set aside for meetings.
Holoubeck highlights Arjun Arora, a serial entrepreneur and venture partner at 500 Startups, as having a workable, productive approach. She suggests you think like Arora and look to the why. “Backed by research and Arora’s own personal experience, a team characterised by trust, respect, and admiration, working 40-hour work weeks, will outperform a similarly competent team characterised by fear, mistrust, and scarcity thinking, frantically ‘being productive’ 80 hours per week.” So lockdown your email after hours, pick up the phone to reach out to external contacts, and get off your chair to talk to colleague next time you have a point to action.
This article was originally featured in The Informer. To read the full magazine, please click here.