How To Survive Email Overload
You check your email – 89 emails await you and it isn’t even 9am yet! You’re not dreading the day ahead, you’re dreading your email inbox! Does this executive’s experience sound familiar? In this week’s post we look at the one of the biggest evolutions to business today – email.
205 billion – that’s the number of emails sent daily according to Expanded Ramblings (2015) and on average an office worker receives 121 emails per day. Email has moved far beyond what it was originally intended for. Many organisations use email as the default ‘database of record’. It provides an audit trail for correspondence and is used by many people as a quick way of accessing critical documents.
Steve Sims, founder of Badgeville’s Behaviour Lab (2015) says business e-mail is on the rise for three reasons:
[if !supportLists]· [endif]An “always on, always accessible” work culture
[if !supportLists]· [endif]The increasing number of devices able to read and send e-mail
[if !supportLists]· [endif]The increase in automated e-mails designed to sell products and services
We’re able to access emails via more channels, such as smartphones and tablet devices. No longer chained to our desktop computers, we’re free to send and receive email wherever we are, at any time of the day.
A DOUBLE EDGED SWORD?
Electronic mail has revolutionized office communication. From a work perspective, e-mail serves an important purpose—it can replace time-consuming meetings and phone calls. The ability to send messages almost instantaneously is an advantage in a fast-paced and changing workplace. Whilst this has definite advantages for flexible working and staying in touch, it also has its disadvantages when it comes to focusing on priorities and avoiding distractions.
David Meyer, a University of Michigan psychology professor, found that people who shift their attention between two activities—like writing an e-mail and writing an article, for instance—spend 50% more time on these tasks than if they’d finished one task before moving to the next. More recent research from the university found that distractions—even short ones lasting less than three seconds—can double the number of mistakes we make at work.
Email is certainly a threat to efficiency, says David Allen, a consultant and the author of Getting Things Done andMaking It All Work, but he maintains that it’s also an essential work tool. “I’ve had email since 1983. I couldn’t live the life I live without it,” he says.
HOW TO GET THE BEST OUT OF EMAIL WITHOUT LETTING IT DOMINATE YOUR LIFE
[if !supportLists]1. [endif]Train employees in effective and healthy email use. They should not send personal emails through their workplace email account. HCS Technology Group (2014) reminds business people that emails at work are for business purposes only and not for rumours, jokes or chain mailings. You might allow your employees to send personal messages to others during breaks, but they should access their private accounts to do so.
[if !supportLists]2. [endif]Establish times. According to CIPD (2016) employees checking email outside work hours, has been linked to higher levels of stress and pressure. While personality type affects the degree to which pressure is felt, organisations are being urged to put policies in place to stop employees letting work overspill into home life. Newly appointed CIPD president, professor Cary Cooper, said organisations should have policies preventing email access outside of working hours and this should be led by management behaviour. "If a manager sends an email at night to a subordinate or colleague then the message is that we expect you to be available 24/7. The alternative is to close the server down at the weekend and in the evening and there are companies that are doing that," he said.
[if !supportLists]3. [endif]Create a weekly newsletter to which employees can contribute that covers happenings in the workplace. This way you and others can remain current on events without having to send out extra emails throughout the week.
[if !supportLists]4. [endif]Try to keep your inbox as clear as possible. Organise mail using folders like "Action," "Waiting," and "Archives," And when you do check mail, use the two minute rule – immediately handle any email that you can read and respond to in two minutes or less.
[if !supportLists]5. [endif]Non-essential mail. If you regularly receive email such as newsletters, blogs and article feeds, re-route these to another email address, or use rules, so that they're instantly delivered to a particular folder. This will help keep your primary inbox clear, and they'll be in one place, ready to read at a convenient time.
image: from stokpic.com/