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Email still number one time killer in the workplace

Article date: Tue, 18 May 2010 10:40 GMT

Richard Parkinson, senior associate at Pinsent Masons LLP

Email is a great tool for communication but its persistent misuse is an ever growing problem for UK businesses.

As employers restrict access to Facebook and other social media sites during regular working hours, email is still the number one time waster, according to a legal industry round table.

Supporting the findings of the Confederation of the British Industry (CBI), personal email and internet use were identified by the panel as replacing sick days as the biggest danger to workplace productivity. Despite companies restricting the use of numerous sites to lunchtimes, finding a balance between acting like a Big Brother-style organisation and preventing essential time wasting was a key issue.

Lawrence Jones, MD of UKFast, says, "We can become too reliant on email at the expense of picking up the phone and building stronger relationships. Despite the internet being integral to our business growth, we still recognise the importance of face-to-face communication with our colleagues and clients."

To combat misuse and ensure the continual use of face-to-face communication, many organisations have turned to email-free Fridays, which encourage team members to use the telephone or simply cross the office to deliver a message.

The round table also identified the dangers that misinterpreting an innocent email can have if forwarded or sent to someone other than the intended recipient. Email threads, in particular, can pose several risks to the legal profession in terms of e-disclosure. Companies must ensure that all employees are aware of their internet policy with regards to sending offensive, threatening, indecent or obscene correspondence.

Despite the dangers Richard Parkinson, senior associate at Pinsent Masons LLP, thinks the advantages of using email far outweigh the risks. "It throws up greater opportunities to work more efficiently," he says. "Certainly when working within an international firm you can share things straight away with colleagues in other offices and other jurisdictions. If you have a huge disclosure project you could outsource it to pretty much anywhere in the world."

He adds, "It presents different ways of working which more firms are going to have to look at and take advantage of to work more efficiently."

The round table discussions are held in association with UKFast with the aim of uniting business leaders to share advice and provide a wealth of ideas for other developing companies. The panel was completed by Fran Eccles-Bech, executive director at Manchester Law Society, Joy Kingsley, senior partner of Pannone LLP, and Graeme Jump of Mace and Jones.


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