Thursday, 8 August 2013

Email: Luddite vs Acolyte

I read an interesting post about companies giving up email (Edmond, 29 July 2013). "Really?", I thought, so I read on. The CEO in question headed up a volunteer sports organisation in Australia, and has chopped his, and his employees time back to next to nothing by making people go and talk to each other. Apparently 66% of his company emails were in staff emailing each other.
All very well if the people you need to talk to are in the same office - even the same building - at the same time, on the same day. But even then, I would say that if you are directing someone to a website, it is more efficient to post a clickable link than to go and tell them what the link is, letter by letter (that's even providing you can remember it).

Yes, we must ensure that we remember to have real conversations. However, I think we can do the mundane things, and the tasks that need to be ticked off, via email, not matter how close we are.

And where does that leave the customers of the sports organisation? Will they telephone each one individually to tell them of their decisions? Can anyone afford that amount of time or resource these days? I would suspect not. So I would imagine that their customer emails will stay exactly the same.

While it has some merit in principle, in general I disagree with the views presented in Cameron's article. Email is a communication tool of the present, it helps us be more productive, providing we use it consciously and judiciously.

Perhaps the Australian company needed to put some thought into how and when they should use email, then invest in some training so everyone got the same message. I feel they are in limiting themselves and are in serious danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

In my view, productivity comes down to good planning, and from making decisions yourself about being available or unavailable. As I work from home three days a week, and live way out in the country with no landline (would cost $10k to put it on), and a cellphone that only works outside, I can tell you that I couldn't chose to live my life as I do without email and Skype.

If it is raining, email & Skype are my only connection tools, because I am not going to stand outside in the rain to talk to people if I can do it comfortably inside on the PC. Most of what I do is face to face as a lecturer and consultant in careers and management.

I know that to build rapport, I need to be face to face with my clients. On the two days I come into town, I have meetings and lectures. On the other three days, I am accessible via email, Skype & cellphone. As long as I am focused on the work I need to get done, and plan my day, I don't have any trouble with managing email. During deadline times, I turn my phone to silent and turn off Outlook to prevent distractions.

However, on the days that I am in town, I know I will get 'no' work done. Everything will revolve around people, talking, meeting, catching up, drop ins and 'by the way' conversations. That could be seen as frustrating, but I don't see it that way. I plan for it - it is when I am accessible.

And the other thing I love about email is that I can bang out an email when I find something I need to do: then the person at the other end can deal with it when they get time. It is in process instead of being another thing I need to remember to do. I like that :-)


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