PricewaterhouseCoopers wants to Slow the Email Deluge
BusinessWeek reported (see: "Can't It Wait Till Monday", 5/19/2008) that audit and tax firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has been asking its employees to work offline on the weekends and not send emails to colleagues until the following Monday. Their thinking is that too many workers are catching up on the prior week's email during the weekend. Unfortunately, with so many people responding to emails on the weekend, they are causing a flurry of new responses (and more work) to be completed on those weekends. In other words, PWC wants to reduce the velocity of weekend email traffic.
I concur with the sentiment of this and wish them luck.
In my zillion years with a PWC competitor, I thought then that the overuse of voice mail and email was out of control and counterproductive. Since then, I watch in horror and amazement as colleagues still with that firm struggle to respond to IMs, emails, voice mails and phone calls while simultaneously listening in to a conference call or presentation.
Let's look at this from the client perspective as they are ones paying the bills for these consultants. When I'm talking to a consultant, auditor or lawyer, I expect that:
- you will give me your total, undivided and uninterrupted attention. If you pull out your laptop to scan emails, you're no longer my client.
- you will take the time, all the time you need, to thoroughly think through my business problem and give it the full attention it deserves. Anything else and you're no professional. That said, I'd rather you lock yourself away in a quiet space and do the research and big thinking you're supposed to be good at. I don't want you interrupted by a hundred, petty and irrelevant outsiders with their irrelevant and distracting points.
- when you attend a meeting at our firm, you will turn off completely your phone, your laptop and other electronic distractions. When you keep all these things on, you send me one clear signal: I'm not as important as other clients, employees, etc. that you want to have interrupt us.
Users of Crackberries and similar devices often confuse immediacy of information (no matter how banal it is) with importance. In fact, many of these individuals see these devices as esteem boosters or products that make them feel and look important. Clients are already paying you a pretty penny. They apparently thought you knew something when they hired you - so - you don't need to impress them anymore. If you think you look cool because you're walking around with a bluetooth headset (I recently saw one person at a trade show with one on each ear) while reading email and carrying on a phone conversation, you're not. In fact, you look like a tool - a pretty hilarious looking one at that.
While it shouldn't be necessary to say so, some of you need to go through Geek Detox. If your briefcase is giving you a hernia because of the weight of the electronic village you're carrying, you need help. If you must blog every minute of your life or think we all care where you are every minute (via Twitter, for example), you're wrong.
If you work for me, I don't want you to email me from your kid's baseball game or recital. I really don't want to be bugged 10 times in a day from you. Solve some of the problems yourself and put the rest in a single call or email to me. I really don't want to be bothered on the weekend or late at night unless it is really important. I'm not being rude. I'm actually helping you learn to respect both your own time and mine.
I don't believe service firms should promote the disorganized, the frentic, the overworked. Instead, they should promote those who solve problems, work ever more efficiently and get their work done on time. The best people on your team respect their time and the time of others. If you can't get this, call me - just don't email, IM, Skype, etc. dozens of times. I will gladly respond when I'm not working with a client.