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Don’t ban email – just use it wisely
3 August, 2012 - 09:00
A recent study released by The Grossman Group and LCWA Research Group reveals that the growing trend of reducing email isn’t necessarily an appropriate strategy. We caught up with David Grossman in Chicago to discuss the findings.
By Kelly Kass
Email overload. We all experience it. But what can be done to manage it?
303 corporate executives, 181 supervisors, 306 middle managers and 510 employees were surveyed from February to March 2012.
The research uncovered three significant results:
1. Email is an effective internal communication tool at work: 84% of corporate executives think so; so do 83% of middle managers and 77% of non-supervising employees.
Employees use the channel to communicate timely information, to connect with global clients and co-workers and to keep a record of information.
“Useful”, “helpful” and “efficient” were three of the adjectives used to describe email by employees and middle managers.
2. Email needs an overhaul but it should not be eliminated: Despite its effectiveness, email needs to be improved. That’s the consensus according to 47% of corporate executives, 57% of middle managers and 35% of employees.
The latter two groups see email as “overwhelming” and “excessive”. Managers estimate spending approximately 24 minutes of their day reading irrelevant email messages. Broken down, that’s the equivalent of 6,000 minutes (100 hours) per work year for each manager.
Employees spend 17 minutes a day on irrelevant emails. Work-related messages generally take up 45 minutes of an employee’s day; 10 minutes are spent on email outside normal business hours. Middle managers spend 74 minutes and 28 minutes, respectively.
So what should be done to improve the overload?
Many organizations are beginning to dabble in enterprise social software implementing the use of Yammer, Chatter, Jive and other platforms. Rather than email one another back and forth resulting in endless email chains, colleagues rely on the social software for instant burst of messages enabling quicker response times to questions and a thinner email inbox.
When asked if these sexy new tools can truly replace email, David Grossman, CEO of the The Grossman Group, said:
“I think we’re already at the point where there is a ton of overload inside the organization. Something has to give. Adding channels and adding to the overall communications mix isn’t taking anything away. The future is: how do we re-balance internal communications to make sure that we have the vehicles and tools that really focus on employees’ needs and help them get the information they need?”
In Grossman’s email study, few people polled felt that email should be banned at work. Instead they favored policies that would:
• Reinforce email rules and etiquette. (Supported by 61% execs/55 middle managers/40% non-supervising employees)
• Permit unlimited email communications. (26%/31%/21%)
• Limit email outside normal business hours. (11%/20%/13%)
• Limit email during normal business hours. (8%/15%/11%)
• Eliminate email outside business hours. (3%/12%/7%)
36% of employees, 20% of middle managers and 19% of corporate executives viewed none of these strategies as effective.
The primary issues respondents have with email has to do with people’s email practices – from hitting ‘reply all’ to unnecessarily cc’ing colleagues in a message.
3. Managers are especially affected by email misbehaviors and are also more likely to access their work email outside normal business hours, according to the third significant finding of the study. Reasons for this are:
• To meet important deadlines.
• Connect with global colleagues/clients in multiple time zones.
• Conform to company culture.
• Impress colleagues/supervisors.
Managers, supervisors and employees tend to access email away from the office in order to:
• Ensure nothing is missed. (e.g. project updates, meeting times, etc.)
• Prepare for the upcoming workday.
• Read emails they don’t have time for during regular office hours.
• Reduce the next day’s workload.
Accessing email outside of regular working hours usually lead to work-life balance struggles, fear of missing pertinent information and increased stress from checking messages.
Just where should companies draw the line when it comes to employees constantly staying connected to their smartphones?
Grossman said, “I think how connected we are is a very personal decision. One of the things we realized in our work was people work very differently. The things they don't want is for others to dictate how they work. Each of us has to make our own decision as to how connected we want to be. Can work survive without us? In most cases, it can. It says something about how we lead if we can’t step away from our BlackBerry or smartphone. If you don’ t have a wonderful team in place, it says maybe we’re not leading as well as we could if we can’t take a vacation and recharge as all of us need to.”
For more on the study, “Enough Already! Stop Bad Email!” go to http://www.yourthoughtpartner.com/email-perception-study/
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