Scourge

LBO March 2018

It must be the scourge of every office. It has seemingly crept up on us until it threatens to take over the working day and possibly the hours beyond if we let it.  I am talking here about the ubiquitous email.

In itself it is a quite marvellous tool that has transformed communications in ways that even 20 years ago few could imagine. It was the stuff of sci-fi movies.  The written letter made redundant (almost) at a stroke.

So how is it that something as powerful as the ability to send a written message to somebody else just about anywhere in the world, instantly and at no monetary cost, has become such a curse? For it has of course.  The flow of emails can feel like a tap stuck on “open”, continually filling my inbox with a mix of important messages that really do require attention and junk that just jams everything up.  Separating the two is ever more taxing as advertising ruses become ever more subtle.

And then there are those messages we are copied into. While we might like to be part of somebody else’s conversation or privy to somebody else’s work output, the temptation to copy in all and sundry seems overwhelming for some people.  The effect is to create overload for others who have to manage the deluge.

I have found that a dangerous trap easily fallen into is to skim read the contents of one’s inbox, deleting junk, dealing with the most pressing and marking as “unread” those to be dealt with later. These are the ones that are not so urgent or that do not lend themselves to instant response.  And as the volume of email increases, so the number of times we find ourselves visiting our inbox continues to increase.  As with social media, it can feel as if it is a creeping addiction that is controlling more and more of our working and waking hours.

But this must not be a counsel of despair. Tools do exist to filter spam, junk and clutter, and so what if the occasional “important” message is lost in this way?  The author of a message sent with the click of a button should appreciate that the message can just as easily be lost with a simple, misplaced click.  And in the workplace I advise banning “all staff” emails.  Hunt them down and eliminate!

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