What Do You Think About Email Free Days?

I’ve been reading a lot lately about organizations that have implemented email free days. It’s got me thinking about my fairly recent but avid attachment to my Blackberry (see earlier post) and about another post a while back about humanizing the workplace. In the latter, I had referenced a talk by Tod Maffin who spoke about the impact of technology on people and organizations from a social and ‘human’ perspective.


(Photo courtesy of Sage on Flickr)

As I wrote in an earlier post work isn’t going to get any less busy – rather, we’re going to have to learn new habits to cope. Malcolm Gladwell has been quoted as saying (Globe and Mail article): “I’m quite prepared for the possibility that the next revolution is not going to come from a machine…..it’s going to come from creating a more thoughtful work force and giving people the opportunity to be thoughtful.”  

Given that, I think the idea of an email-free day is an interesting possibility to help develop those habits of reflection and working a little differently now and again. What about you? What do you think?

Would an email free day…

-Offer an opportunity for more meaningful reflection?

-Encourage people to communicate differently and better  (i.e. like actually pick up the phone and talk now and again!)?

-Bring more ‘humanity’ to workplaces and/or specifically to your personal work experience?

– Lessen the distraction factor and reduce that frazzle factor?….recognizing that while there’s a whole lot of meaningful and important use of email there’s also a whole lot that we can live with out.

I suspect that for me it would take some time to self-manage my own email habits and mindset to get a real benefit out of an email free day. I have my own long list of “yeah buts”. For one, I work independently vs with one particular organization; Another ‘yeah but’ is that part of my biz is within realm of communications, I can’t imagine turning off for a whole work day. I also have clients who work in PR and well…..I suspect they’d say a whole day each week seems real unreasonable for their biz. 

Still….something there to consider, don’t you think? If a whole day each week isn’t feasible, what about an email-free hour or two or three or four……? Or what other possibilities can there be to pause….?

In any case, whether this idea is the right thing to do or not….and/or whatever it looks like (full day, just hours or something different all together) I do applaud those companies who are trying to find ways to help humanize their culture.

To a TGIM worklife…..with or without email!

Back to TGIMworklife home page

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5 Responses to “What Do You Think About Email Free Days?”

  1. Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson Says:

    Our two cents: No e-mail days are band-aids for a bigger problem. If we’re trying to create a more thoughtful workforce, banning e-mail communication during certain hours isn’t going to do it. That’s like saying I’m going to lose weight if I eat brownies every day of the week except Tuesday. If I get rid of them on Tuesday, I’ll surely lose weight, right?

    In other words – be chaotic and not thoughtful everyday except Friday, and we’ll be good.

    The underlying problem is much bigger.

    As with creating a more thoughtful workforce, there is much more to be done. In fact, we believe that a complete deconstruction of the workplace is necessary. No-email days and no meeting days aren’t going to cut it.

    Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson
    Creators of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE)
    Authors of the forthcoming book “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It”

  2. Eileen Chadnick Says:

    Thank you for weighing in on this…..appreciate your comments!

    I agree ‘bandaid’ approaches are never the answer and yes, an email-free day in isolation would be limited. But I suspect that many of these organizations trying out ’email free’ days might also likely exploring a variety of other initiatives to foster more reflective workforces. Would love to hear from others who are involved in these initiatives. Keep the comments coming!


  3. kevinkeohane Says:

    Agree with the previous comment. Why note have a phone free day, talk free day, calculator free day, light free day? It’s not email that is the problem, it’s how people use it. Spend a day communicating 10 tips to reduce email traffice, write more effective emails and manage your inbox would be a better use of time…

  4. Brett Tackaberry Says:

    E-mail has become the defacto method for any type of communication – it doesn’t have to be nor should it be. Communication – in the context of GTD (getting things done) – should be in relevant channels to the task at hand and we should be using the right tool for the job. We (76design) have begun using an online project management system that keeps project communication together with working documents and other relevant information. This keeps communication and relevant information compartmentalized and ultimately results in a few less email messages.

  5. Eileen Chadnick Says:

    Brett – thanks for this. Good point: use the right tool for the right job! I love that GTD acronym…..very cool. Thanks for touching base!!

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