Magazine

What’s in Your Inbox? E-Mail Costs You a Fortune

By Marsha Egan

(This article is excerpted from a piece in Consulting Magazine – Editor)
The numbers can be staggering. Recent research from tech giant Basex indicates that the U.S. economy loses $900 billion per year on information overload. To understand how that figure affects your business, think about it this way: If each employee in a 20-person office fritters away an hour a day because of poor e-mail practices, that’s a hundred hours a week! Said another way, that’s a full workweek for two and a half employees.
Do you think an hour is an exaggeration? Then think about it this way – every time you let your e-mail interrupt your work, it takes an average of four minutes to get back on track. If in one day you let just 15 e-mails derail you, you’ve just lost an hour of billable, productive time. Multiply that by every employee, every day of the week and you can see how office-wide unproductive e-mail use can be an enormous drain on your profits, and just how badly your office needs an e-mail bailout.
Have you stopped to examine how your employees use their e-mail? How do they manage it, send it and save it? The habits they adopt, both good and bad, can be contagious. Since all of us are faced with incoming e-mail throughout the day, an office e-mail culture evolves quickly. That culture can easily become toxic, and that toxicity can quickly spiral out of control.
Perhaps you are now convinced that your business may have an opportunity to reclaim lost productivity. But how do you deal with it? If every person in the operation is involved in the same wasteful practice, it would be an easy fix. The challenge with e-mail practices is that each person seems to have his or her own quirky time-wasters. Trying to fix all of these problems can be likened to trying to herd 200 cats – not an easy task!
Frustrated workers who have taken the time to learn efficient e-mail practices cry out, “I can’t do this alone!” Every time they try to be more efficient, others with less-efficient practices infect their workspace and steal time from them. Frustrated managers know the issue should be addressed, but struggle with how to accomplish it efficiently and effectively.
Instead of trying to address the myriad of toxic practices that can be found in organizations, the “Clean Out Your Inbox Week” campaign sets three primary goals.
First, challenge everyone in your organization to empty their inboxes by a given Friday. Cluttered inboxes negatively affect productivity – they add to stress and increase distractions. While an empty inbox is not a solution in and of itself, it indicates to people what an inbox should look like. It shows coworkers what the goal is.
Second, the Clean Out Your Inbox campaign requires that everyone in the organization agrees not to use e-mail urgently. Instead, anything urgent should be handled by either an office visit or by telephone. E-mails requiring responses within three hours should not be sent. This requirement can help eliminate the need for everyone to have their e-mail open and constantly pinging interruptions while people work.
Third, the business must agree that all workers are expected to view their e-mail five times a day, at most. This requirement enables workers to focus their attention on other tasks, and minimizes the interruptions that plague the everyday work environment.
Egan Email Solutions has developed an “eKit” to assist in this Clean Out Your Inbox campaign, providing a complete rationale for how and why it will work, and offering tools to make the week a success. Included in the kit are more than 30 e-mail efficiency tip posters, camera-ready art, promotion and recognition ideas, meeting talking points, timelines, press releases, and promotional sample e-mails.
Executives can’t be expected to know the best methods to bail out their e-mail cultures, so EganEmailSolutions.com has done that work for them. By keeping it simple, and focusing on the three behaviors that will bring the biggest return, businesses will be spurred on to give even more attention to curbing the wasteful behaviors that the use of poor e-mail practices can cause.
Getting an entire organization on board to take hold of their unproductive e-mail practices can be a daunting task. Some may say, “With all of the business/profit/legal challenges we have, how can we justify devoting time to e-mail productivity?!”
When you look at the numbers, the reality is that you can't afford not to.
What’s in your inbox?
Marsha Egan, CPCU, is CEO of the Egan Group., Reading, PA. Her recently released eKit Clean Out Your Inbox campaign can be found at www.eganemailsolutions.com

Article Abstract from March, 2009




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