Last week, I was quoted in an FT article about social media use at work. I sometimes brace myself to see how my interviews are portrayed ‘in print’, but this time I was pleased with the overall tone of the article.
For me, there were a few key points in this discussion of how we use and abuse communications technology at work:
- Overuse of social media at work isn’t necessarily ‘addiction’. It could be a sign of job-related stress, of not being challenged enough or of simply feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to do next.
- One-size-fits-all rules when it comes to work email and managing our boundaries between work and home simply don’t work. They don’t take account of individual needs for flexibility.
- Email culture needs to come from the top, through senior leaders role-modelling appropriate email etiquette. It’s not enough to email in the middle of the night and say you don’t expect a response immediately. By emailing so late, you’re implying that this is what’s required of leaders.
- Discussions about appropriate email and social media use at work need to be explicit and not merely implied. It’s better to give clear guidance on what’s expected and what to avoid. Let employees operate within agreed principles, only intervening when there’s an obvious problem.
Technology is a tool – let’s avoid ‘techno-panic’
Technology at work – and this includes email and social media channels – is simply a tool, not a problem in itself. The problems occur when we don’t use the tools effectively or with intention.
Would you mow your lawn with a scissors? Or crack a nut with a sledgehammer?
It’s up to each of us to consider whether we’re using the tool in the best possible way. For example, are you emailing a colleague who is sitting across the room? Might a chat be more productive? We should also have consideration for the recipients of our messages, in terms of timing and clarity of communication.
When it comes to problematic use of email, it’s worth considering just how much email checking is out of habit, rather than intent. How many of us reflexively reach for our mobile phones the minute we leave a room or step onto a train? By checking your email so frequently, are you really ‘keeping on top’ of your workload? Or are you distracting yourself from focusing on your real priorities?
Delegates on our ‘Email 101’ course, a part of our Productivity Essentials series, can learn how to deal with email overload, effectively prioritise communications and manage boundaries and expectations. Contact us to find out more.