Tuesday, 9 June 2015

You've Got Mail

Who remembers the excitement of setting up their first email account and the ping of receiving your first electronic missive?

Back in 1999 when I set up MPAD, from what Mrs P describes as a cupboard under the stairs, I truly was excited when my friend Matt, who worked for an IT / web company, helped me set up my account. 

I can still remember the address: mark@markpicken.initiative.net, although I can't remember who the first email was sent to, or received from, as very few people I knew back then were online. 

Fast forward 16 years and the sound of emails coming in sometimes fills me with dread, especially when I come back into the office from holiday (as I have just done following half term). 

No. 30 on my #40before40 list (yes, I'm still working on finishing it off, but life has been busy lately and I've not got round to blogging, ok?) was to: Use email less at work and other means of communication more e.g. phone calls.

I have to confess that I have failed in this challenge. Quite spectacularly if you were to look at my inbox. 

But I am doing something to try and solve it now. 

I felt like I reached a tipping point during half term as the numbers in the little red circle on my Apple Mail app on my iPhone and iPad increased.

The problem with the notification system on the phone is that unless you go into settings and switch it off, then it continues to grab your attention.

So, I have to admit that I did check and clear every mails fairly regularly during the break.

I ran a quick straw poll on LinkedIn and Twitter on my return to MPAD towers to ask how people deal with emails during holiday. 

There were some really interesting and useful responses (see the LinkedIn debate here), and some, er, more forceful replies.

One useful comment on Twitter sent me through to a BBC article entitled ‘Should holiday email be deleted?’.

The article focused on the work of German vehicle manufacturer, Daimler, to support staff with their work / life balance.

Basically, when people go on holiday at Daimler they set up an out of office message that tells recipients that their email has been automatically deleted and that if it’s urgent to contact another member of the team. 

According to Daimler spokesperson, Oliver Wihofski, 99% of responses are positive.

Anyway, back to phone notifications. I have switched them off several times before when on holiday - last June I switched roaming off on my phone when we went to Brittany and only switched back on to make a post on Facebook about England's dismal World Cup performances....

But what makes me sweat is when I switch them back on after a relaxing break.

Depending on how long we’ve been away it can vary from 800, 900 to 1,000 messages.
Then begins the soul destroying task of hitting delete, especially as at least 95% of them are junk or spam.

There is also the guilt that’s associated with seeing an email that’s been in your inbox for a while that you know you should have replied to, but for whatever reason, you haven’t.

I love podcasts and on Reply All they came up with a great idea to solve this - Email Amnesty Day - a day where we you can reply to any email loitering in your inbox as if you'd only just received it.

A great idea, but what I'd really like is a day that would allow you to send emails to people, but they’d have to wait at least 24 hours before replying, or they had to call you.

So, what am I doing to solve this middle class / first world problem?

At work, we’re starting to use the messaging system on our cloud based CRM system, Podio, much more. 

Although the uptake has been slower than I would have liked, as everyone is so used to sending emails, it is starting to work really well, especially as I am out of the office a lot.

I’ve also split up my inbox, thanks to this suggestion from Chris Rickard on LinkedIn, into ‘Priority’ and ‘Non Priority’ folders.

That’s taking a little time to implement, but I’ll get there.

I’m also very tempted by the auto-delete system, so will be speaking to our IT guy.

But, despite these ‘issues’ I think email has been brilliant for me and the business. It’s helped us to generate work and build relationships with clients and suppliers.

And it was over emails, 10 years ago, that I started to chat to the now Mrs P when she was working at the West Briton, so eat your heart out Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks......

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