Email considered harmful

“Some businesses have banned electronic messaging altogether” said no business ever.

Source please.

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Perhaps he’s misremembering cases like

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Print is simply a vastly superior mechanism for communicating large amounts of information than talking in person, and talking in person is vastly superior to telephones (why the hell else would anyone waste the bandwidth on videoconferencing?)

With email I can organize and review what I have to say, spend the time I need thinking about each part of what is being said to me, and I always have a record of the conversation (“Yes, you damned well said you wanted that widget to be red!”)

But there are limits. Having work email at home is dangerous…having it on your phone is 10X as dangerous. I have a filter that only shows alerts when my Boss emails, but he’s an after-working-hours email junkie, so that’s not a brilliant solution. But I’m pretty got at not feeling obligated to respond immediately.

More importantly to me is that on occasion I have experimented with only bringing up my email reader a couple of times during the work day: early, to see what’s in the docket, with my elevenses tea, after lunch, and whenever in the late afternoon I decide my mind is fried anyway. When I can do that, the effects on my productivity are significant. Unfortunately, often my work is substantially done directly out of email (small tickets, organizing projects, etc.)

Too true! I have had bosses and directors who saw it as part of their job to keep the workplace from bleeding into employee’s lives. But I have had others that let their own lives be dominated by work and who assumed that was the path to the top (and many places reward such ass-hattery). I would say that this doesn’t happen now that I’m back in the Fire Service, but there are people who take their side projects home with them. I love my job, but there are actually people who lose vacation every year because they go over the maximum accrual (which is ridiculously high, in the hundreds of hours). They never go on vacation. That’s just sick. The only job I would love that much is sitting on a tropical beach while drinking great beer.

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We have a person at our company who prints out just about every email… If someone responds with a “thanks”, she will print that out to replace the previous one.
She also used to dig through peoples trash to make sure that they didn’t put paper in there that could have went into the recycling bin.
The dissonance is strong in this one.

I turned off “push” email on my phone, hoping it would save battery. It hasn’t, but I realized that without the little red number in the corner of the email icon, I forget to check it.


Oooh, another email pro-tip: if you use Gmail, go check out “Undo Send”. Of course, what it’s doing is just delaying sending your email for a minute or so, but that’s generally exactly the moment you think “Oh, shit!”


IM is nice for me. My team is all over the states and we all commute via VPN. Even back in the days when we had desks for a long time we all had desks at the closest office site in the Puget Sound area so we didn’t sit next to more than one or two people in the team on a regular basis. There is no way I can just walk over and ask a question. Also with IM if I need to get my head down and work on something I can set myself to do not disturb.

I find it infuriating because of all the two word messages.

you there? -hits enter-
can you pkease -hits enter-
*please -hits enter-
do this thing -hits enter-
for me -hits enter-
thanks -hits enter-

Jesus tapdancing christ, just type it all in one message already so I can get to the point and shit stops popping up all over my screen.


The article is not about email, it is about excessive email which, along with other electronic leashes and/or addictions, has stolen countless hours of personal time from people. The point is not to eliminate email but to highlight the fact that is out of control for many people and in many environments.

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I caught that, but the wording of the article is less than precise in the first paragraph.

I have been wired to work for 6 years or so. At times is has eaten my free time. at other times it has allowed me to avoid my desk for extended period and enjoy myself. Addiction is a problem, Employers that try to use every time saving as an excuse to give employees more work is a problem, but those are just one side of the equation really. This article just sort of brushes all that off. I definitely cut way back on late nights at the office as soon I got the blackberry and cut way back on turning my laptop on when i got home. I could just check my phone once or twice an hour and know nothing had come up. Do a quick check before bed to see if I could sleep in the next day…

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I’ll take email over meetings any day.

Reading these comments makes me happy for the position that I now have, but also depressed that I’ve hung around so long in some bad working environments. Now I work 40 hours, period. No one wants to see more than that on the time sheet; if I do have to exceed this (rare) then it is offset with comp time. I have a boss who generally leaves me (and everyone else) alone, so long as the work gets done. I don’t have a smart phone, and they haven’t provided me with one, nor have they asked me to check email during off-hours.

This situation seems unusual, but it shouldn’t. It’s a huge contrast, though, to the last place where I worked, a small company where 48-50 hour weeks (on salary, not hourly) were routine and 60-70 hour weeks weren’t unusual. (This culture came from the top down, as those in charge might have slept 3 or 4 hours a night.) I’ve also done my time, years ago, carrying an on-call pager (as though I were a surgeon or something) although at least I was hourly when I did that.

So yeah, I’d say email (or whatever messaging technology) is not the culprit, so much as (1) employers yoking the employees to said technology 24/7, via Blackberry, pager, etc. and (2) employees putting up with such toxic environments any longer than necessary.

Up until recently (when I changed jobs), I’d check e-mail once a day (and Facebook and Twitter once a day too - if that.) Server problems generated SMS messages (I was on-call on alternate weeks), and EVERYONE in the organization knew that AOL chat (or Google chat) was only for urgent issues. This was an organization that has had e-mail and instant messaging capabilities since the mid 1980s and KNEW how corrosive e-mail is to productive time (especially concentration.)

The organization in my new job isn’t as “mature” in either respect - machines DON’T generate alerts (I’m working on that) and and co-workers seem to use online chat for non urgent issues - like “look at this youtube video”.

So, I’m not surprised by the study - other than the conclusion has been obvious for nearly 30 years.

I’ve caught a couple of unscrupulous vendors this way. Why is it they always phone or else show up (unscheduled) to have a discussion, but won’t answer any questions via email? Hmmm.

This would be equally wacko, but at least more eco-friendly: you could suggest she saves those emails as PDFs to an “email” folder.

You’ve gotta work with what you’re given, you know?

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I take it you have teenagers too?

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Worse, co-workers!

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LOL! I didn’t know about that one. I wish Outlook would put up a big, flashing red warning whenever someone hits “reply all”. At one job I actually convinced the email admins to hide the Reply All button in the default config, so that people had to go to the drop down menu to find it.

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