Just Say No: Addressing E-Mail Addiction

 -  4/30/07

A new addiction has taken hold of corporate America. Business professionals can last barely 10 minutes without getting their fix. What they crave, of course, are BlackBerries, Treos and the other handheld devices.

A new addiction has taken hold of corporate America. At home, in their cars and even in meetings, business professionals can last barely 10 minutes without getting their fix. What they crave, of course, are BlackBerries, Treos and the other handheld devices that allow them to make phone calls, answer e-mails and schedule appointments anytime, anyplace. This obsession is so prevalent, many people have started calling their PDAs “CrackBerries.”

Yet, a new survey by Robert Half Management Resources shows many senior executives think it’s time for business professionals to get this monkey off their back.

Most of the respondents said they disapprove of employees who check their e-mails during meetings, with 31 percent of respondents saying this practice is never acceptable. Thirty-seven percent said it’s OK to respond, as long as the message is urgent, and 23 percent said these professionals should excuse themselves from meetings to read or respond to messages.

Paul McDonald, Robert Half Management Resources executive director, said executives allow this practice, even though they disapprove of it, because it has become such an acceptable part of business culture.

“Mobile devices are an integral part of peoples’ lives,” he said. “In the business world, there are individuals who are attached to their BlackBerries and Treos, and it’s difficult for them to put them down and focus on one task, which might be the business meeting at hand.”

This obsession with constant communication is still business-oriented, however. In the competitive global marketplace, clients expect instant responses to their questions and concerns. If one professional doesn’t help them fast enough, they can easily find another who will.

“It’s a competitive world out there, and everyone’s looking to make sure they serve their clients,” McDonald said. “In order to get ahead and stay ahead, you need to respond on a just-in-time basis.”

Still, professionals need to make a clearer distinction between messages that have 911 and 411 status, he said. According to eMarketer, a market research organization, the volume of global e-mails grew by 2.7 trillion last year.

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