Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Zero email Friday

The email has had a significant impact on all our lives and has made communication both a pain and a pleasure. Even with spam and junk email filters the volume is still growing. Research company IDC estimates that 40 billion personal emails, 17 billion alerts and a further 40 billion spam emails are sent each day. We are all return from holiday to a mountain of emails and spend valuable time trawling through them. So is there finally a backlash, a reawakening of how we should work and communicate on the horizon, or are we destined to sit at screens and stare with thumbs ready on our Blackberry and mobile phones.

A number of US firms have taken the bold step of extending the ‘dress down Friday’ to the ‘zero email Friday’. 150 engineers in Intel turned off their machines for 24 hours and opted to use the phone and as a result Intel will now repeat the initiative for the next month. US Cellular went further fining rebel users $1 for each email sent and had ‘wanted ‘ posters put up on the office walls and even required them to wear nametags with a big scarlet ‘E’ on them.

The ‘talk not type’ movement has also spread to Georgia based mail order company PBD Worldwide, accounts Deloitte & Touche and Pennsylvania State University, where students are pledging to take a day off emails. Students are apparently getting panic attacks from trying to keep up with their email. We all know that feeling.

I remember the first time I met Nigel Newton , CEO of Bloomsbury and the first five minutes were a tirade about the volume of email he received. That was ten years ago! It is claimed that the average US office worker receives about 140 emails a day, reads only half of them and responds to less than a quarter. A new habit is referred to as ‘email twitching’, or reading every email as it arrives. We are all guilty, we all need email and maybe the only escape is to get someone else to read the email for you!