Tag Archives: e-mail overload

Too many e-mails plus bad management stressing out staff

laptop_mail_PA_500_wht_2109Professor Sir Cary Cooper has hit out at the avalanche of e-mails most workers now suffer from at work.

In a speech at the British Psychology Conference in Liverpool he said UK productivity was the second lowest in the G7 group of nations (20% below the average and 40% below the USA) which he believed was due to our embracing technology “too enthusiastically”.

He thinks companies should shut down their servers to discourage employees from checking e-mails in the evening and at weekends and especially when on holiday – which he described as sick. (Some companies are already doing this in Germany).

He would like to ban in-house e-mails between members of staff in favour of face-2-face communication and thought c.c. e-mails a waste of time.

He thinks too may people are just showing up for work (“Presenteeism“) but not doing anything productive.

Research at the University of Sussex confirms that when when staff are given company smartphones they put in an extra day a week checking and responding to e-mails.

Experts say that there may be help round the corner from even newer technology such as Slack and Yammer which provide an open stream of communications not requiring you to open e-mails. (Is that really an improvement?)

employee_diciplined_1600_wht_5635But it’s not all down to the technology. British managers are notoriously poor at praising and encouraging staff. Cooper likens a good boss to a parent figure balancing criticism and praise.

However UK employees don’t have to wait long to be criticised in his view but they can wait a long time to get any praise for good work. And that could be a problem with younger workers who expect praise and good treatment at work.

 

Work, Rest and Play

stick_figure_running_with_luggage_500_wht_7358No-one talks about Work-Life balance any more; Work-Life Merge seems to be accepted as the way it is, particularly in the USA. With the growth of smartphones and tablets workers are increasingly expected to keep in touch with work.

A recent survey by LondonOffice.com found that the majority (70%) of British business professionals check their work e-mails at least once a day when on holiday. 1 in 5 of them said they answered the e-mails and 60% of these carried on with the interchange if they thought it was important.

On the positive side a quarter of those surveyed said they didn’t check their e-mails when on holiday and 9% conveniently “forgot” to take their digital device with them.

For most people it takes some time to switch off from work and adjust to a different holiday tempo, and you may miss the structure work gives you.

Holiday can be stressful as well as enjoyable. There may be a large financial investment and high expectations. For freelance or contract workers there is a double cost as they are not earning during the holiday. People worry about travel problems, losing baggage, having accidents/illness.

Much as you may love your partner/family spending 24/7 with them can also be a strain. If your relationship is having problems you may find going to work is an escape for you and/or provides you with social support.

Organisations generally have flatter structures with fewer managers supervising more staff. Managers or team leader may not have deputies to look after things whilst they are away and may worry about what they will be going back to.

Managers may not have sufficient skills to delegate or manage their time effectively. They may not have the skills to develop/train staff to deal with minor problems. They may lack confidence themselves or feel they have to micro-manage staff. For some managers stress is caused by not knowing what’s going on back at work.

Workaholics are often rewarded by organisations and this leads to “presenteeism” where staff feel they have to work long hours for appearances’ sake. Working more than 50 hours a week is not productive (more mistakes, accidents, poorer quality work) and also has health risks. Those managers who say they get bored on holiday should bear this in mind. Laptops or smartphones on the beach don’t usually go down well with the family.

E-mail overload is an increasing source of stress. Companies can help by having policies about e-mail distribution but sometimes managers feel they have to check their e-mails if only to delete the spam or reduce the volume when they get back.

pen_display_accomplished_1600_wht_7579So what can you do?

  • Pre-planning is crucial which includes briefing your team on what to expect when you’re away and delegating responsibility to them.
  • Leave an out-of-office message asking people to contact you on your return if possible or contact a colleague if it’s urgent
  • Have day off before you travel on holiday to help you prepare for the break.
  • If you really have to use your digital device restrict your usage to an hour each day and let your staff know when that time will be.
  • Having a buffer zone at each end of a holiday can help. Having a day of to get things sorted out at home before you go back to work or just going in for an afternoon to start with to clear any backlog enables you to get the best out of your holiday.
And if you still think you are indispensable remember De Gaulle’s dictum of how the graveyards are full of indispensable men.