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News: productivity being ‘sabotaged’ by email addiction

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14th Mar 2013
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Business productivity is suffering because firms are not taking steps to curb “email addiction” in the workplace.

This is according to Jerry Hopkins, founder of The Leadership Team, which provides training to leaders who need to create more time in their working lives.

Hopkins said that organisations would benefit from introducing strict guidelines on the use of email during working hours. He added that without this control, staff become distracted from more important work which can cause project deadlines to slip.

Hopkins said: “It is not that answering emails as soon as they arrive in the inbox is important, it is more about people becoming addicted to them. There is a natural curiosity whether in our home or professional life to want to check who has been in touch and what they have had to say. But the reality is that very few people in business need to look at their emails more than two or three times a day.

“By putting in place simple time management controls such as looking at emails in the morning, at lunchtime and at the end of the day, individuals and their organisations will create more time to focus on the real priorities.”

Suggest to HR they should curb email use with codified policies and you’ll need to pick their jaw up off the floor – this type of intervention can draw significant backlash from workers as it restricts the ways they can do their job. It would also be difficult to measure whether productivity increases, making it hard to make a business case.

As an aside, time-sensitive emails arriving outside of ‘allowed’ email time would need to either be ignored by workers or responded to – a rock and a hard place scenario. They would need to either ignore something they know they need to do, or be technically insubordinate. Neither is likely to make them feel good about themselves.

People work in different ways and there is no one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to email usage. Some people like to stay on top of things – it actually makes them more productive. For others it can be a brain drain and it’s up here that HR can intervene effectively. They must communicate with these employees and implement changes that allow them to more easily cope with technology.

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