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Email Epidemic Damaging UK Productivity

Email Epidemic Damaging UK Productivity

A former government adviser has said employers must tackle an "epidemic" of staff checking work emails after hours.

Sir Cary Cooper said a compulsion to deal with emails had caused the UK's employees to become less productive than many of their international counterparts.

The professor said: "For people to be working at night, weekends and holiday on emails is not good for the health of our country."

He also said there should be limits on internal emails too, adding: "We need to ban emails [sent and received] within the same building."

Sir Cary Cooper is a professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University. He previously advised the Government Office for Science about mental health in the workplace.

He recently referenced figures from the Office for National Statistics that indicate the UK has the second lowest-rate of productivity out of the leading G7 industrial nations, coming behind the US, Germany, France, Italy and Canada.

Cooper believes a more practical solution would be to flash warnings if workers were detected to be using work emails when they should be relaxing or engaged in family activity.

He added: "They could get a message back, for example, saying, 'You have accessed 27 messages today,' alerting them to what they are doing.

"Every organisation has to come to a conclusion as to what is a good way to be operating, and the best way to do that is by asking the employees themselves how do we stop this epidemic of us being linked all the time to our emails."

IT service giant Atos however believe that social media tools can solve many of emails' problems, if used correctly.

Atos banned the use of internal emails in 2011 as part of a longer-term goal of ending email use altogether.

The announcement made headlines and caused a great stir as much of the company's revenue is derived from providing email service to others.

Chief information officer for Atos confirmed it had stuck with the policy, but added that it required both training and a cultural shift.

He said: "It's about making clear our expectations about communications have changed.

"In the past, the idea was that when you came back from holiday and had tens or hundreds of messages that you would deal with them.

"Now, we make clear that you don't have to catch up with them because social communication's needs are very different to those of an email application.

"And the whole practice of copying in everyone into a message in order to cover your own back has also been reduced - it really changes the way people think about work communications."


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