Is email communication bad for employee health and productivity?

Here, David Price looks at the importance of a social working culture.

There is no escaping technology. In today’s society we spend more time engaged with our mobile phones, tablets and laptops than any other activity. While technology has been a great asset to many businesses in helping them reach broader markets and deliver engaging content in real time, is there a point where technology may be starting to hinder progress within the internal parameters of the workplace? More specifically, is the lack of personal communication and the rise of email communication causing a decline in employee health and productivity?

While it is perfectly acceptable to send emails to be busy clients or customers who are on the move and thus difficult to physically track down, is it really necessary to carry this behaviour over to communicate with people who work within the same organisation, building and even department.

With several companies being highlighted in the news for placing temporary bans on internal emailing, to determine whether it improves employees’ health and happiness at work, should other companies follow suit? While I am not advocating a mass ban on emailing, as it is an important tool for employers and employees alike, good old-fashioned communication should not be forgotten when engaging with colleagues.

Employees and management are bombarded with a heavy stream of emails on a daily basis, often leading to said workers checking emails outside of the office, leaving them with no time to switch off from the daily grind. This continued behaviour can result in employees feeling stressed, anxious and worn down, which if not prevented or dealt with accordingly can be dangerous for the health of the employee. What’s more, the effects of this can have severe negative consequences on businesses through decreased attendance levels, workplace morale and productivity.

In line with the above, attending our email inbox, which includes both reading and replying to messages sent can take up a significant amount of any employees’ day, leaving very time to focus on the work that drives the business forward. I have seen many a day when I have sat at my desk answering countless emails, only to look at my watch and see that several hours have passed me by, several of which, were emails from members of staff. In this instance, could a phone call have been more appropriate?

I believe in today’s society, we have lost touch with the art of a simple conversation over the phone or face to face. As a result, we have become more antisocial, relying on a computer, phone or tablet to do the talking for us. In business, it is vital that we demonstrate the ability to communicate, particularly in client facing organisations, but if we are becoming reliant upon electronic communication, will the next generation (Z) struggle to aptly converse with colleagues, clients or customers without the use of technology.

Technology has many benefits to businesses and is continuously growing and developing. However, in order to stop employees becoming fraught with despair at the number of emails in their inbox, a balance between electronic and traditional communication is needed. Talking in person or over the phone should not be a distant memory, particularly if the person is sat a few metres away. Similarly, abandoning all use of emails is impractical to say the least, but monitoring the degree to which it is used and refraining from its sole use will undoubtedly be advantageous to the health and happiness of colleagues and their employers.

David Price is managing director of Health Assured.

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David Price

David Price

David Price is CEO of Health Assured, a part of the Peninsula Group.

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