The Pikachu Penalty – When there’s too much team email
I don’t know how old you are, but I’m certainly of an age that I distinctly remember when I sent my first email. The thrill, the magic, and the excitement of it all! And then, believe it or not – I got a reply! Cue forward to 2017 though and email for most of us today is probably best described as a necessary evil; a convenience we all need, subconsciously resent but at the same time compulsively feel the need to check, and never get on top of.
It’s not just you though – it’s all of us. Statistical reports indicate that in 2017, worldwide, 225 billion emails will be sent and received EVERY DAY. For us, the average business user– this means that, this year, we are looking at sending and receiving a brain-numbing 124 emails EVERY DAY. That’s average mind you, and some of us have more – lot’s more…
Online you’ll find a plethora of articles and advice on how our email-overloaded selves are suffering. We are constantly switched on, lack concentration, are easily distracted, less productive, less verbal and communicative face-to-face, more abrupt in writing, less willing to make conclusive without extensive consultation….and so on.
In our business, we’ve embarked on a bit of a Wellness Campaign during 2017, and not being able to keep up with the demands of their inboxes has, anecdotally, featured high on our team’s list of office bugbears. This prompted our April roll-out of an “Avoid Email in April” campaign, with the idea being to avoid sending internal emails as much as possible and see what effect it had on productivity and office sentiment.
Here were the rules:
– Actively stop yourself from sending internal emails. Is this a priority?
Go FACE-TO-FACE, stop by the person’s desk or set up a meeting time
Respond quickly and clearly ONLY to emails that need your personal attention and input
FILE emails for later action if you cannot reply immediately
Force yourself to have an “email TURN-OFF “during non-critical times (lunch/after-hours)
Send ANY one-word emails like “Thanks” “OK” etc. Let’s all just assume we’re polite for April.
Start an email change for anything that requires discussion or multiple responses from various people – set up a meeting instead
Send any CC. FYI or “keeping you in the loop” emails – Make a time and update the person on multiple issues in one go if necessary.
The STING though was that our Operations Manager was tracking internal email use and at the end of April there was to be a loser to name and shame, whose penalty would be to don a full-body Pikachu Onesie for a day of work and client meetings. And guess who lost – that’s right – yours truly – and yes – that is my good self in the Pikachu get-up in the pic up top. Yes I took it on the chin – just.
But the exit survey we gave to the team at the end of the challenge was what we really wanted to see and the results showed an interesting dichotomy. In the written response part of the survey some team members reported that the restriction was a hindrance, stifled productively, made it hard to get info to remote team members, and left some issues requiring collaborative input temporarily shelved. The flip side responses were that cutting out the email “noise” was beneficial, not being cc:ed on everything made it easier to know where your direct action was required, and that there was more direct communication and chat in the office.
Overall 72% of our team registered that we should continue avoiding internal email or encourage avoidance where possible but allow internal emails to return. I think that number is pretty telling; that despite the inconveniences, being able to self-limit or “think before sending” is a beneficial exercise does help to cut some of that noise out of workspaces.
Where we go from here, we’ll see: It might be like eating chocolate cake after coming off a diet and we all binge email from now on. Here’s hoping though that we use it as a self-reset and keep self-monitoring our email time and switching off when we really need to. Me first and foremost – lesson learnt – although I could get quite comfy working in that onesie.