The very first email was sent way back in 1971. Today the average employee is dealing with anywhere from 120 to 150+ emails a day. A survey by Adobe found employees spend on average 3.1 hours per day sending and checking their emails alone, amounting to 15.5 hours per week - and 20 full weeks of the year. Most employees keep email open in the background and that “ding” works very much like Pavlov’s dog experiment. We end up checking the email, get distracted from project work, and then must spend additional time to refocus and get back on track.
This constant input of information can get overwhelming. We feel we must react and respond right away, even when it is something that doesn’t have a lot of impact on the work we are trying to get done. This makes all of us less productive and more stressed. Having a plan to address what sometimes feels like a firehose of information can help us feel more in control and cut down on information overload.
What You Can Do
Take a look at the amount of email traffic outside of normal business hours. If your employees feel they must respond at night and on weekends, this adds to their stress level. Managers often use off hours to get out information, but don’t realize the impact that can have on their team.
Ask managers that send emails on the weekend to hold them and be scheduled to send early Monday morning. This allows the managers to write the emails on weekends but takes the pressure off the team.
Decide what hours in the evening are “no email” time. Some companies make that 7 PM to 7 AM. Talk to leadership and discuss what would work best for your business.
For emergency response teams, work out a schedule so that not everyone has to be on all the time. A rotating schedule provides coverage for the company and employees on these teams to better schedule their time.
Have an initiative with team members around blocking off time on their calendar to turn off email. These can be 30-minute blocks, hour long blocks or whatever works best for the team. It is important that team leaders role model.
If your company has employees in different time zones, it’s important to set up some parameters around awareness of the impact on team members. Your company may need to try different approaches to find the right policy for your organization.
Technology is constantly evolving. It can be tempting to always want to push the latest technique or innovation. That needs to be balanced with the current workload. Learning anything new takes time and practice. Loading that on top of employees in the middle of a crunch period can backfire.
When looking at new technology or new procedures that your organization wants to implement, build in enough time for training. Take the time to talk to managers and team leads to understand how this might impact current projects and deadlines.
Consider pilot training to get feedback. This can give your company insight into how much time it takes to not only train your people, but how long it then takes those trained to actually be proficient.
There is no doubt that the amount of information and innovation will continue to accelerate. Getting a plan in place and guidelines can help your employees cut through the “noise” of information overload. It can help reduce stress levels and contribute to helping your people meet deadlines. It can also reduce burnout.