email e-mail message microsoft outlook Above the Law.jpgLast week, USA Today ran an article about “Email-Free Fridays” or “Zero Email Fridays.” Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal ran pretty much the same article.
But it’s an interesting piece, and it relates to an issue that many of us confront: email overload. The problem is especially acute for lawyers at large law firms, but it’s not limited to their ranks.
From the WSJ:

A growing number of employers, including U.S. Cellular, Deloitte & Touche and Intel, are imposing or trying out “no email” Fridays or weekends. While the bans typically allow emailing clients and customers or responding to urgent matters, the normal flow of routine internal email is halted. Violators are hit with token fines, or just called out by the boss.

The limits aim to encourage more face-to-face and phone contact with customers and co-workers, raise productivity or just give employees a reprieve from the ever-rising email tide. Emails sent by individual corporate users are projected to increase 27% this year, to an average of 47 a day, up from 37 in 2006…. And one-third of users feel stressed by heavy email volume, according to a 2007 study…. Many check email as often as 30 to 40 times an hour, the study showed.

Managers complain that rather than confronting problems, employees use email to avoid them by passing issues back and forth in long message strings, like a hot potato. Email reduces face-to-face contact among co-workers and clients; terse, poorly phrased messages further strain those relationships. And it is spilling into weekends, chaining employees to computers when they should be relaxing.

So, are email-free Fridays a brilliant idea? Or is this policy just not feasible? Take our poll:


P.S. We’re hopelessly behind in our email. After we deal with a message, we file or delete it, leaving only pending items in our inbox. Right now our inbox contains 2,471 pending items.
Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of email we receive, we can’t respond personally to every message. If your email does require a response, and you haven’t heard from us for a while, please email us again, by way of friendly reminder. Or here’s a novel concept: try calling!
Fridays go from casual to e-mail-free [USA Today]
A Day Without Email Is Like… [Wall Street Journal]


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