Doctors say it’s comparable to a drug addiction … and it could cost your company just as much.
And if you or any of your finance staffers just can’t resist the ping of a new message, you could be hooked.
The toll of email addition on your bottom line is real — and significant. The proof, according to several recent university studies, both in the U.S. and abroad:
- Employees who jump between two tasks – like writing an email and keying in an invoice, for example — spend 50% more time on these tasks than if they’d finished one task before moving to the next.
- Distractions as short as three seconds (like seeing who that new email is from) can double the number of mistakes made at work, and
- It takes an average of 64 seconds to recover your train of thought after being interrupted by e-mail. So those every-five-minute-email-checkers lose more than eight hours a week!
That’s some compelling evidence to get email under control.
Taking back your time
Of course email is supposed to be faster than snail mail, but it’s not meant to be instantaneous. And that’s just what it’s evolved into for many people, both on the sending and the receiving end of the message.
Nearly a third of workers say they respond to email within 15 minutes. Other research shows it’s much faster than that, with some estimates saying that 70% of email alerts get a reaction within a mere six seconds!
Here are some strategies so you can take back your own time and help your finance staffers take back theirs:
- Nix the notification. It’s the first thing any office productivity pro will tell you. No one needs to be alerted every time a new message arrives … especially when you think of how much junk appears in your in-box.
- Tap low productivity times for email. It certainly doesn’t take a lot of brain power to slog through the email in-box. So do your email checking in chunks during low-energy periods in the day. Of course the timing will be different for everyone, but you don’t want to be wasting peak-productivity times (or times when you have few interruptions) on email.
- Don’t use your email as a to-do list. Many folks have gotten in the habit of hanging onto messages to keep track of what they need to do when: that 2 p.m. meeting, that project due date, vendors to follow up with. Some people even email themselves reminders of things to do. But that keeps you tied to your in-box. Whether you use a paper to-do list or an online one, keep it separate from your email.
- Alter expectations. This one starts with you, as manager. You have to get your staffers to understand that there’s no expectation that if you send them an email, you want an answer in 10 seconds or less. Anything that’s so urgent would be handled in person or with a phone call. Once people understand you aren’t watching your inbox, looking for an answer, they’ll be more willing to check less often.
Info: Study data collected in the article “Addicted to Work E-Mail,” by Dana Wilkie, at www.shrm.org