Taming the email beast

Taming the email beast


By Neil Amato

Email can morph into an after-hours monster for some workers. One top regret of managers is checking in too often whilst on holiday, according to research by staffing firm OfficeTeam. No doubt, this is a byproduct of the email beast.

Setting proper digital boundaries can help you feel more refreshed upon return — and can help employees learn communication discipline. A recent Gallup poll shows that employees who spend time outside of work checking email are more likely to experience stress than those who don’t.

Stefany Williams, CPA, CGMA, the CEO of Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas, is an advocate of “going dark” during time off. Here is her advice:

Pay attention to what motivates you to check your email relentlessly — and make it stop

“For me it was the light on my phone blinking across my kitchen at 9pm while the phone charged,” Williams says. “That’s where I started reclaiming my ground. I turned that blinking light off and started checking the email on my terms instead of the phone’s terms.” She suggests disabling email notifications.

Talk with your boss and your team

Get clarity on the expectations about response times and protocol for urgent situations. “This is fairly easy if you are sitting at your desk,” Williams says. “If you are in the field, more clear expectations need to be in place.” Make sure people who may need to reach you know about your change in response patterns and how it will affect them.

Do not combine personal and professional mobile devices to save money

Many people don’t like the hassle and cost of having two phones, but having one often means workers give up the ability to separate work and personal life. “This was not a fair trade,” Williams says. She suggests doing a cost/benefit analysis of “the restorative power” of time away from work. The cost of a personal phone will be worth it, she says.

Set a good example with email at work to make your organisation more efficient

Williams advises setting calendar appointments to check and respond to email, say 15 minutes every three to four hours. Training employees to be more disciplined with email is an ongoing process, as workers have grown accustomed to getting immediate replies. “No one is at their desk every minute of every day,” she says.