Email Free Fridays

from the walk-and-talk dept

Two years ago we had the story of the Liverpool City Council who banned all internal email on Wednesdays. Last year, it was UK company Phones4U that banned all internal email. Apparently, this sort of "trend" picks up one organization a year. The latest is Veritas Software, where the marketing department has declared Friday an email free day. The VP of marketing felt that email was getting out of control, so banning it outright (on Fridays, at least) seemed like a way to force people to figure out other ways to communicate, and to cut out some of the worst abuses of email. To make the ban stick, he even promised to fine those who abuse it $1 (and to give that money to charity). Some people can't help themselves, but others have adjusted. The fine "pool" is apparently up to $70, but it's growth rate has slowed (and that $70 includes $20 from a woman who "forgot" about the ban, and sent out 65 messages before she realized her mistake -- but instead of paying $65, the VP commuted her sentence to $20). What's unclear, though, is whether or not there's any real benefit to doing this. It's clear that email can become overwhelming at times. However it is a useful tool. Banning it outright, rather than encouraging good email practices seems a bit extreme. However, perhaps this "email free day" helps to force people to think about communications practices, and may actually lead to better email management on the other days of the week.
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  1. identicon
    Chris Reuter, 30 Aug 2004 @ 8:27am

    How about

    Nah. That would never work.

    The real problem is that people use Email for everything. In particular, they use it as a group medium as well as a person-to-person medium and don't make any distinction between them. So, when someone needs to announce the charity bake sale, they typically just email the announcement to everyone and you end up with a situation where everyone is drowning in irrelevant email.

    (The article mentions one woman who sent 65 emails in a day! Who sends that many relevent messages?!)

    The Right Thing would be for them to use something else in addition to email--an internal Slashdot-style website, say, or a newsgroup or Wiki--to publish the stuff intended for wider distribution. We know how to make those sorts of things present lots of information in a comprehensible way. Then, they could reserve email for one-to-one communication.

    Of course, that's going to be an uphill battle. Most people seem to learn one tool and then use it for everything--I've seen all sorts of horrors perpetrated as Excel spreadsheets--so my suspicion is that most non-techies aren't going to be bothered to learn a new thing without lots of encouragement.

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