Another take on taming the email monster

At the beginning of the week, I posted about a move afoot at some companies to declare “email-free Fridays” in an effort to give workers a break from their overloaded inboxes. This morning, at the end of a work week and hundreds of email messages, meeting “invitations,” spam and one “mailbox full” notice (which necessitated a quick purge of large attachments this morning), my view hasn’t changed. An email free day — or some other approach toward taming the email behemoth — is a good idea.

But not everyone agrees. Judi Sohn of Web Worker Daily suggests that email is getting a bad rap. And it seems many workers agree. As proof, Sohn links to a Wall Street Journal report about U.S. Cellular’s attempt to impose no-email Fridays. (U.S. Cellular is also mentioned in the USA Today story I cited earlier in the week.) Email is the bane of many an office worker’s 8-to-5 existence. “But withdraw it even for a day,’ writes Sue Shellenbarger in the WSJ story, “and some employees fight back like recovering smokers in a nicotine fit.”

“Yes,” writes Sohn, “we’re sending and dealing with more email than ever, but we’re also getting a lot more done on our own timetable. I say: Cut email some slack. … Personally, I find those who interrupt my concentration with an unnecessary phone call (or face-to-face drop-in) to be far more annoying and stress-inducing than those who send 30 messages a day.”

Sohn makes a good point, and maybe on one of those days when I can get away from my inbox long enough to think clearly, I’ll be in more of a mood to agree with her. But today is not that day.


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

2 thoughts on “Another take on taming the email monster”

  1. I agree that it’s counterproductive to attempt email free Fridays. It takes far longer to take calls and have face-to-face conversations throughout the day than to read short email messages.

    If we could reduce the length of the phone and in-person conversations as successfully as we have reduced the length of emails, there could be some hope for email free days in the future. At this point, though, I have a hard time getting people to spend less than 5 minutes if they step into my office.

  2. Lori – I think people are starting to come to terms with email usage. But a lot of the people I deal with are still wasting a lot of my (and their) time by cc’ing the world on their missives (usually to cover themselves, and I understand why some feel they must do this) or by poorly constructing an email message. I agree with the following points raised by the Wall Street Journal article, that “rather than confronting problems, employees use email to avoid them by passing issues back and forth in long message strings, like a hot potato. Email reduces face-to-face contact among co-workers and clients; terse, poorly phrased messages further strain those relationships. And it is spilling into weekends, chaining employees to computers when they should be relaxing.” (Oh, yeah. This is Saturday, right?) :) But, poorly run meetings and poor face-to-face interactions can waste as much time as email, if not more. So, I said all of that just to say, I agree.

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