E-mail-free Fridays a silly idea
Back in the 1950s, companies started a ritual known as "Casual Fridays," a relaxing of the office dress code designed to improve office...
Special to The Seattle Times
Back in the 1950s, companies started a ritual known as "Casual Fridays," a relaxing of the office dress code designed to improve office morale and promote a more relaxed environment. The idea caught fire in the 1970s, and the rampant informality soon extended to other days of the week.
Today, there some places where people look askance if you wear a tie, assuming you are on your way to a job interview or court appearance.
For the most part, people dress pretty much how they want within certain appropriate boundaries that are suggested by the employer.
Enter e-mail-free Fridays, an idea whose time, we can hope, will not come.
Casual Fridays had its own desired result, making everyone more comfortable. E-mail-free Fridays presumably have the same purpose but takes the long way around to a place we could reach if we just thought about what we are doing.
As reported in The Wall Street Journal, a pilot program within Intel has worked to encourage the members of an organic group to focus each Friday on direct conversation, walking across the aisle or picking up the phone to deliver a short message. Other companies have also tried the idea, which gets some initial resistance but is eventually accepted when employees see the benefit of increased "face time."
Advocates of this idea are the same ones who can never resist another trip to the buffet table or the open bar, or need to talk to their boss to figure out how to dress. These controlling bosses are upset because their employees don't interact, and will send an e-mail to a colleague in the next cubicle rather than risking personal contact.
In fact, one of e-mail's advantages is its ability to eliminate superfluous contact. This has been clear from the beginning, as demonstrated in an article I wrote in 1985 (!) for PC Magazine about Los Alamos National Laboratories, which read, "The Labs' electronic mail system allows employees to leave messages for each other instead of getting stuck in a lot of useless conversation, which even scientists tend to do."
So here's what will happen: Companies will encourage e-mail-free periods for employees to converse. They will walk over to a neighboring cubicle to ask "when will the presentation be ready?" and the conversation will evolve into "how about those Seahawks?" Pretty soon productivity will decrease, and a year later the policy gets revised — again.
The answer is for companies to hire people with compatible values and trust them to make the right decisions about how to use e-mail.
Individuals should have the option when to send a message, use the phone or talk to someone in person. Using e-mail outside the office should follow the same guidelines.
You should figure out what to say and how to say it in a way that makes you comfortable.
No one else can make this decision, any more than they should dictate how you dress.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 08:53 PM
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