The CEO of AFA JCDecaux arranged a rather outrageous stunt to make a point to his employees about effective communication in the workplace. Over the course of a few days he arranged for his IT manager to intercept everyone’s internal e-mails and post them by regular, good old-fashioned snail mail. So a few days later each employee received a surprise, in the form of a honking huge whack of mail. Outrageous? Maybe. But the point was made, and the use of e-mail in their office plunged dramatically as employees opted to either pick up the phone or get off their chairs to talk to colleagues. There’s a big difference between effective communication and efficient communication. Of course e-mail is a wonderfully efficient tool (heck, if I could phone up each of you every Wednesday and have a little chat with you that would be fabulous, but alas, it’s a tad unrealistic).
But e-mail is not always the most effective way to communicate.
As I wrote about last fall, one study found that 50% of all e-mails have a tonal issue: the person receiving the e-mail isn’t completely sure what the sender’s intended tone was.
So to encourage more effective face-to-face conversations and interaction at work (which strengthens relationships, boosts happiness levels, improves morale, builds trust, sparks more creative thinking and reduces stress and conflicts), many workplaces are designing their offices in such a way so as to encourage more cross-fertilization. For example, Steve Jobs insisted on a re-design of Pixar’s physical space to force employees to intermingle in a large central atrium.
Other companies have created “e-mail free” days to encourage people to get off the grid and off their duff. One company has a policy that discourages employees from sending e-mails to anyone who works on the same floor as them.
Now I’m not a fan of creating more rules or policies, but given the amount of time and stress e-mail causes, and how much of a productivity drain it is, email’s use and impact is worth chatting about in your workplace.
Just make sure you have the conversation in person.
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