>Email and work are not the same thing

>You there. The one who says they are working when they are answering emails. You and I need a serious chat. Modern work life means work-related communications happen through email in the first instance, person-person second and by telephone third. But let’s be clear about that – emails are only a communication medium, they are not work.

Doing work means that you are acting on something communicated to you, and producing a result of efforts. This is working. To claim that you have spent x hours ‘working’ by answering emails, you are misunderstanding the nature of what it means to work. Yes, you probably do receive hundreds of email, but – BUT – they are simply someone communicating a message to you they wish you to do something about. Responding to your emails is not doing something about it. Forwarding your email is not doing something about it. Passing on the request to someone else is not doing something about it. You are only doing something about it when the person sending you a message is satisfied their expectation has been met.

Why does this grate on me though? It’s not about the blackberry culture we’re now in. That’s an expected way of working now, to be always connected to work. It grates on me because of the perception people think it gives of being busy. Yes, it does give the perception you are busy. Are you being productive or effective though? That’s a whole other matter.

UPDATE: Thanks to Sheridan Webb for pointing me to this questionnaire – Busy or Productive? – that can help you to consider the above for yourself.

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

4 thoughts on “>Email and work are not the same thing”

  1. >Email is a modern day curse. We should abolish its use! Seriously, apart from the odd good use, its a huge draw on time and energy and an excuse not to communicate properly.I found a study that reckoned it takes 3 mins minimum to 'recover' from an email – and thats average.Stop emailing, start talking!

  2. >How happy I am to find you! I am a L&Der in Australia and am astounded by the lack of online support for L&D. There are heaps of great blogs/tweets etc on HR but not a lot on L&D.Re your post, I am totally sick of the term "I'm so busy" What does that even mean? As Seth Godin says, if you're not shipping then what are you doing with your time?It always amazes how no one has any time to do anything properly or to have conversations that matter yet when the shit hits the fan suddenly everyone runs around trying to fix the problem.If you tell me you are busy, i want a list of what you do and how long it takes you to do it – the we can talk busy.Looking forward to following you!

  3. >Yesterday at LT11UK someone said "e-mail is dead"… we live in hope! But then, what are all those "busy people" going to do when they don't have emails to answer? Do some real work perhaps? doubt it…

  4. >Hmmm. I'm doing some work with a client at the moment and the overwhelming info sharing tendency in their offices is the pattern you described. Email is the default option. I'm enjoying wandering about and talking to people and trying to revive the old fashioned phone call too. The trouble with emails and winking blackberries is that they satisfy a need to feel like we're being kept informed. They can and often do, become addictive. Ruining people's sense of flow. And worse still people in hierarchical (old fashioned) leadership positions use these devices at all hours of the day and night. This puts enormous pressure on people to conform to these ridiculous behavioural standards. It's ruinous behaviour.I wrote a tiny post about this just recently called Busy Sucks. You and your readers may find it and the comments it attracted in some way useful.http://stopdoingdumbthingstocustomers.com/leadership/busy-sucks/Good discussion about a subject that is seriously screwing up the world of work.Cheers – Doug

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