Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Curse of Email Overload; an Influx of Electronic Mail Can Cause Stress and Interfere with Productivity at Work. Margaret Coles Looks at How Companies Can Better Organise Your Electronic In-Tray

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Curse of Email Overload; an Influx of Electronic Mail Can Cause Stress and Interfere with Productivity at Work. Margaret Coles Looks at How Companies Can Better Organise Your Electronic In-Tray

Article excerpt

Byline: MARGARET COLES

IF you feel that email overload is getting even worse, you're right.

We are now being deluged by an electronic flood that takes up to two hours of every working day. Most of the missives are confusing and unclear and a third are irrelevant to our work.

This is the conclusion of a survey of IT directors and senior and middle-ranking line managers in UK companies, four-fifths of whom say the volume of email has increased in the past 12 months. If the survey had involved PAs and administrators, too, the results would probably be even more disturbing.

Information Overload: Organisation and Personal Strategies, published by the British Computer Society (BCS) and Henley Management College, says nine-tenths of respondents acknowledged that email overload caused stress, and three-quarters said it damaged efficiency and productivity. Yet less than half said their organisations used technology to filter and organise mail, and only one in five had trained staff to use it effectively and manage the daily influx.

Managers said they received on average 52 emails a day; seven per cent said they received 100 or more. Of these, only 30 per cent were deemed essential, and a further 37 per cent important; the remainder were irrelevant and unnecessary.

Though email can have a positive impact on our working lives, most - nearly threequarters - of the sample "criticised the poor quality" of messages. They complained about lack of concision, failure to specify clearly the action required, failure to explain the relevance of attachments, inappr0priate lists of addressees and omission of relevant previous correspondence.

David Clarke, chief executive of the BCS, says: "While there is growing recognition within corporate Britain of the problem of information overload, initiatives to reduce its impact are still not widespread. Though half of UK organisations now give their staff general IT coreskills training, our research shows that only one in five of them provides training in effective use of email or the internet. …

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