Apr 30, 2009

Are we technology abusers?

Daily e-mail at the workplace volume for many people is the main source of stress and lack of productivity.

Of course, e-mail is one of the most wonderful communication tool ever invented. There are no doubts about its benefits. But the amount of digital massages that you maybe have to handle each day could be unmanageable.

No few workers erase their entire inboxes. Many admit the difficult to set up priorities or distraction facing big email quantities makes it near impossible to get work done.

Several professionals confess that they turns off their computers and BlackBerrys to get their "real work" done. It's amazing, isn't?

But the real challenge is that people can't deal with all the information in their inboxes. A lot of times it's very hard to remember and find what folder you stored that e-mail or who sent you that message.

Companies are trying some answers to the e-mail overload issue. For example, discouraging the use of the "replay all" feature, wich generates lots of extra messages. This is a good idea.

But teamworks must promote spaces for meeting and exchange, where teammates can voice their concerns as senders and recipients, establish opportunities for improvement, and receive opportune coaching.

Everybody at the workplace need to develop an awareness in the use of e-mail. Otherwise, the benefits of this communication channel will disappear due to the irrational and indiscriminate number of messages send. It is only a matter of time.

So, you must implement specific training and coaching programs on e-mail communication. Training is urgently needed on the factors that determine the productivity of e-mail, as well as on good writing skills.

Apr 24, 2009

Workplace email productivity

There is no doubt that e-mail provides transcendental advantages as a tool for communication, work, study, research and filing, and its influence is growing in all aspects of people’s lives, in all countries and cultures.

However, the process of assimilating e-mail has occurred with insufficient preparation. In some cases, training is provided on a specific e-mail program (for example "Outlook"). In others, there are “policies” on the use of e-mail, but they mainly have to do with the need for security and control of computer systems.

We assume that to know how to write is to know how to word things correctly, and that it is enough to communicate efficiently in writing. Sometimes we know how to word things well, and this is enough to communicate efficiently in writing.

Sometimes we think that if we write as we speak, we will be understood. However, it is more difficult to master written communication than verbal and non-verbal communication.

The productivity of this tool is greatly associated to our personal reputation.

That is, our effectiveness in managing e-mail is reflected by whether we achieve the purpose of a message or not. For example, if we write “too many” e-mails, it is likely that recipients will start to ignore them, particularly those that are in the "Cc" field.

If we want to improve our effectiveness in the use of e-mail, we need to understand how they act, and what do recipients value more in our written messages, in order to positively affect their perceptions and attitudes. Likewise, we must deal with each recipient in the most personal way possible, taking into account the emotional impact that written words have and the structure of the e-mail.

This is my email survival guide, full of personal solutions and tips.

Apr 20, 2009

E-mail has a great influence in our personal image

The number of messages we send, the way we write them, their length, and even the time when we write them says a lot about the quality of professionals we are.

How fast we respond to messages, if we read them carefully, and even if we send a copy to another recipient, are some of the aspects that contribute to create a public reputation of our work performance.

Here are some expressions that are increasingly frequent in the work place:

"It seems that Pedro has nothing else to do than send e-mails. I get his messages all the time. They are very long and difficult to understand".

"María is very inconsiderate: She keeps sending chain letters. Doesn’t she know that I’m very busy and have no time for those foolish things? They also fill up my inbox and prevent other important messages from arriving".

"José always copies messages to the boss: He cannot be trusted. I know we must document our work, but why didn’t he call me first? We would have clarified the situation and then write a message with what we agreed on".

If to this we add the great number of "spam" messages we receive, and the number of copied messages that are useless to us, we can understand the increasing stress that managing e-mails produces in our work.

So, be aware about what personal image you are building right now with your worplace email.

See common mistakes in email managment.

Apr 14, 2009

When not to use email at work

If you don't want to waste time (and money):

1. You suspect your written message may be misunderstood or misconstrued.

Emotional written messages are likely to be interpreted according to the mood of the recipient and not by the intention of the sender.

2. You want to deliver bad news or discuss an emotionally charged matter.

Without the benefit of facial expressions, intonation, and body language, hurt feelings could ensue and flame wars could erupt if you deliver bad news electronically.

3. You hold a give-and-take conversation or want to conduct negotiations.

Dialogues that call for back-and-forth discussion are best be held on the phone or in person. Examples: To negotiate a price reduction with a supplier or persuade your supervisor to give you a pay raise.

4. You want an immediate or urgent answers.

Remember, unless a prior agreement, your recipients are not there, waiting for your emails.

5. A message is extremely important or confidential, and you cannot risk a breach of privacy.

E-mail is not a secure medium. So, never use this channel to communicate sensitive corporate information. There are millions of hidden readers and dastardly hackers lurking in cyberspace.

More suggestions on how to save time and money in my book Email at the workplace.

Apr 8, 2009

Steps to maximize email efficiency

The first challenge is to acknowledge that you can't absorb everything you think you need to know. Once you master that mental obstacle, things get easier.

You will be able to prioritize, delegate and just let things slide. You don't have to answer or even read everything that comes your way.

The idea of eliminating information is barely thinks. But this is about self-preservation.

Second, as you limit content, you'll learn to savor it more. Be ruthless as you can through all the "e-noise" and clear your decks for the important stuff.

Get started by spending sometime deciding what sources of information and intelligence are critical for you and your job. What are "must" reads?

Boil it all down to the highest-quality stuff, and read that first. Cancel or get rid of what's only marginal.

When you're the one doing the communicating, be more economical in everything you write, publish, broadcast and post online.


Apr 2, 2009

The productivity of workers is jeopardized by too much e–mail

A downside of cheap communication, like the email, is that there is way too much of it.

The sheer volume of e-mail information flow seriously, threatens theirs advantages as knowledge workers suffer from a chronic state of mental overload, reduced productivity and a declining sense of well–being.

E–mail is becoming a tragedy, encouraging casual placement of corporate spam in the in–boxes of all.

Information overload exists for all business communication channels.

Instant messages, system alerts, phone calls, visits from co–workers and even self–interruptions occur so frequently that workers rarely have more than five minutes of focused work before an interruption occurs.

If users take an average of one minute to read and respond to each message, the current volume consumes more than a quarter of an eight–hour day.

With projected growth of incoming messages, workers could spend 50 percent of their workday managing e–mail by 2009. How much of that time is and will productive?

It's true, many of that time has profit value. But how many hasn't?

In order to establish parameters to measure the productivity related to e-mail, see this method: Costs of reading e-mails in companies.