Live by technology, die by technology — or at least, be forced to deal with inconveniences created by the very tools that were intended to liberate us from extra work. For an example, look no further than email, which can save precious hours of face-to-face meeting time and provide an instant record of conversations, but also become a time-suck in its own right. Here are a few of the biggest problems with the productivity tool everyone loves to hate, and how to overcome them.
(Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo)
1. Problem: There’s too much email, period.
Solution: Change the flow.
Some companies (like WordPress) have abolished email altogether, relying on systems of blogs to distribute information to employees. The difference? Because workers sign up to follow the blogs that pertain to their projects, they’re opting into communications, instead of just being deluged with information at the discretion of the sender.
Although this might not work for your team as a 100 percent replacement for email, bringing some conversations outside of email could make it easier to avoid the dreaded reply-all syndrome.
2. Problem: Email can allow other people to plan workers’ day.
At every company, there are at least a few employees who think of email as a sort of Bat Signal, immediately calling the recipient to respond. The higher up the food chain you go, the more likely you are to find them.
Unfortunately, expecting workers to reply immediately to every email is impractical at best and productivity-destroying at worst.
Solution: Adopt a new system.
Many time management experts recommend batching tasks and answering emails only at a few pre-determined times each day. To pull this off without alienating your boss (or her boss), make sure you get your manager’s buy-in and communicate your new email-checking schedule well in advance.
3. Problem: Tone is hard to convey via the printed word.
Want to reduce your accomplished colleagues to squabbling school kids? Send a quick email about a divisive issue and wait for it to be taken the wrong way. This isn’t an indictment of anyone’s writing ability or reading comprehension, by the way. It’s very hard to convey tone and intention in email form, and really easy to misconstrue both.
Solution: Read before you send, don’t type angry, and give each other the benefit of the doubt.
Until someone invents an app that senses agitation and shuts down Outlook, we’ll have to police our own behavior. Choose your words carefully, but don’t jump to conclusions about what others write.
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