Training Bulletin Issue 63
Technostressed and technofrazzled
Technostress is a thing, who knew? Well, actually, we probably all did, we just didn't know it was such a well-established thing that it had a name and a body of research attached to it. And if someone out there can make up a word like 'technostress' in the first place then I propose the word 'technofrazzled' to describe its effect.
Email ate my life
The main contributor to the latest work malaise is email, and as we now frequently access it by smartphones, it means we are always accessible, always on. Recent stories in the press suggest that business is starting to wake up to the fact that this is not necessarily a good thing.
A French company called Atos Origin was in the news after its CEO announced in 2011 that he was going to ban email. Atos is a technology company employing over 70,000 staff and the CEO in question used to be a professor at Harvard Business School, and also the Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry for France for two years so we aren't talking about some dippy Californian start-up here.
Since 2011 Atos has put in a less intrusive social network for internal communications, and managed to cut the amount of internal email by around 60%, without any loss in productivity.
Other studies suggest that just by having set times to check email rather than responding immediately to each notification can enable better concentration and result in less stress.
You can read more about it here: https://hbr.org/2016/06/some-companies-are-banning-email-and-getting-more-done
and here: https://www.laserfiche.com/simplicity/so-hows-atos-no-email-project-coming/
So email isn't going away then?
Realistically, no. Actually, we should be grateful because if progress follows its usual arc with email being more intrusive than letters and faxes, then its replacement might be worse yet – telepathic messages from the boss, anyone? No, didn't think so.
And email does have many good points after all:
- You have more time to think about what you are saying than you do in real-time conversations
- There's a record of who said what
- It's much easier to share information with a number of people by email
- It makes working with staff or clients in different time zones easier
Making the best of it
Think of it as making email work for you, rather than you working for email.
- Decide to have specific times to check for and action new mail, rather than dropping whatever you're doing and responding at once. (Note that those of us who work in support or admin roles may not have this luxury.)
- Make it easy for your recipient to reply by asking specific questions rather than sending a vaguely-worded ramble that leaves them unsure what you want.
- Respect people's time by getting to the point quickly rather than waffling – this of course means you have to be incisive about what your point is. Be clear in your mind about why you are sending an email and what result you want.
- Avoid forwarding an email chain or document with just 'FYI' or 'See attached' – tell people what they need to look at and remove irrelevant content .
- Don't create spam by copying loads of people just because everyone seems to do this.
- Be aware of the things that can make the tone of your email offensive, even if you did not intend it to be, such as:
- Passive voice rather than active if conveying a negative message – 'This wasn't done' rather than 'You didn't do this'
- Criticising without saying anything positive to balance it
- Using ALL CAPS or exclamation marks (make you sound angry)
- Asking negative questions – 'Have you done this?' rather than 'Haven't you done this?'
Don't be a voice in the wilderness
The suggestions above come from our one-day Email Masterclass (https://www.plainwords.co.uk/co_effective_email.html)
It won't make much difference if you are the only one in your office doing these things, though. Your recipients may be less technofrazzled but you won't be if everyone else is still following bad email practice in what they send you. We can help you improve everyone's email game by presenting some in house sessions for you. Contact us to discuss how we can adapt our course to fit in with your timescales and requirements.