E-mail Management: Take an E-mail Holiday

It might sound radical, but some organizations have implemented e-mail holidays, typically one day per week for a period of time. E-mail holidays are not just about asking people to substitute other ways of being in touch. They also encourage people to take a break from their routine e-mail habits so they can work on other projects without the constant interruption that e-mail can create.

Would it work for your team, department, or organization? It might, if you have agreement from your team and announce it in advance. The following case study describes how a “no e-mail day” worked successfully for one company.

Veritas Software’s e-mail management strategy

When Jeremy Burton, chief marketing officer at Veritas Software, noticed that marketing team members were favoring internal e-mail over face-to-face conversations with departmental colleagues, he established a “No E-Mail Friday” program for his 240-member marketing team. As Burton told The Wall Street Journal, “e-mail is supposed to be this big productivity tool. But it’s getting to the point where it is out of control.”

Designed to get the marketing staff talking with one another to build relationships, enhance productivity, and cut down on unnecessary internal e-mail, the No E-Mail Friday program ran from midnight Thursday through midnight Friday during the summer months. Come Monday morning, it was back to “e-mail business as usual.”

Andrew McCarthy, Veritas’s director of corporate communications during the No E-Mail Friday program, notes that the concept worked because it fit the company’s culture and was appreciated by members of the marketing team, who “certainly got up out of their chairs on No E-Mail Fridays.”  As employees grew accustomed to the e-mail ban, “They phoned. They talked. And they walked.”

Contributing to the success of the No E-Mail Friday program, according to McCarthy, was that Veritas incorporated humor into its corporate culture. It was up to e-mail recipients to report infractions. Monetary penalties of $1 per violation were contributed to charity. The first employee to violate the e-mail embargo sent his message at 12:11 A.M. on the first day of the program. His violation was commemorated on a “Wanted” poster featuring his photo and the words “Mr. 12:11 A.M.”

An informal program, No E-Mail Friday operated strictly within the marketing department and applied solely to internal e-mail. Flexible enough to accommodate business needs, the program did not restrict employees from sending co-workers needed documents or e-mailing customers and other outside parties.

This article is based on E-Mail Management, Second Edition, by Nancy Flynn. You can purchase this book at the Axzo Press store.

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