The endless distraction of the email inbox can hinder productivity – but can business leaders resist the urge to keep checking? Three IoD members share their experiences of a month-long experiment with no-email Friday
Managing director, NLG Health
I find myself constantly checking emails, at my desk, on my phone and even on my watch – probably at least 50 times on a workday and 15–20 times on a weekend. No-email Friday interested me as our company has recently implemented a ‘no internal email’ policy to encourage better communication within the team and this has worked exceptionally well. I wanted to test no-email Friday on myself to see the effect and alerted colleagues to the fact I was doing this trial. I cannot believe the positive impact it’s had. The first Friday it was very difficult to keep from checking emails, but after that I made adjustments so I didn’t get email notifications on my devices, and that made a real difference. No-email Friday was very refreshing and definitely made a difference to both workload and state of mind; I was able to focus strategically as I didn’t find myself responding to issues that could be dealt with operationally and I have become much more relaxed and less reactive. I would recommend no-email Friday without reservation – it gives that opportunity for reflecting and planning and it has changed my thinking regarding looking at emails, especially after working hours.
Mark Hathway is a member of IoD Yorkshire
Founder and director, Leadership Habits
I probably check my emails at least a dozen times a day. Luckily they aren’t a source of stress for me, perhaps because I am not in a corporate role. I’m always interested in learning about my habits and enhancing my productivity, and this seemed like a good opportunity to do so. I thought it was likely I’d forget to not check emails so I set a reminder on my phone, but by the time it went off at 6am on the first Friday of the experiment I had already checked my emails – I was horrified at how unconsciously I did so. After that I became fanatical about not checking, switching off my mobile data and WiFi on my laptop. It was difficult knowing that there were emails I was expecting or had to respond to or send, so it didn’t feel like a relief at all – if anything it seemed to add to the stress. The experiment had a knock-on effect on my week, but not in a good way – Saturday was spent catching up on emails that I hadn’t checked on Friday. I wouldn’t recommend this experiment if your role requires responsiveness (eg being customer-facing). But if you have big pieces of work that require your attention and focus, then I would recommend just checking emails at specific time slots during the day.
Shaun Laubscher is a member of IoD Advance
Founder, Bays Consulting
I can’t answer emails quickly enough. At the end of the day I’ve answered them all and done virtually no work. I gave up worrying about having a clear inbox, but what does cause me stress is the worry that I’ll miss that ‘really important email’. We have a family rule that no one looks at any screen from 4pm Friday through to 4pm Saturday, so I was keen to see if this experiment would give me the space I was looking for to just tackle those aspects of managing a business that need planning and thinking time. On the first Friday, I put my out-of-office on, but it was more stressful not to be looking at emails than to be looking at them. But once I got into the work it became much easier and time flew by. As the trial went on I actually started looking forward to Friday. Those who need to talk to me call my phone, but actually a lot of work can genuinely wait until Monday. Days spent not looking at emails are no less busy without emails, however, and in many ways produce more output, so I was still ending one week thinking about what had to be achieved the next. I felt as though something had been accomplished on Fridays. I would absolutely recommend this experiment.
Sophie Carr is a member of IoD South
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