Email traffic is part of modern life, and for many of us the volume of messages received each day is reaching startling proportions - it's a far cry from the days of the wire in-tray
4 December 2008
I wonder how many of you can remember the first time you sent an email or used the internet? It's frightening now to be surrounded by a high number of people at work who have never been in the workplace without such tools, now seen as the basics. My grasp of technology is fine until I listen to a teenager who sees it as second nature. I may have been better if it wasn't for the worst piece of advice I got at school. When the time came to choose subjects for the final two years, I was told: "Don't take computer studies, they will never catch on".
For all their benefits one of my least favourite jobs is responding to my emails when I get back from holiday - something I had to do recently. I have allowed previous breaks to be disturbed by my Blackberry so for this trip I promised not to be sucked in and was helped considerably by the remoteness of my destination. However, during a long layover at Nairobi's airport, I decided to use the time to clear emails.
This is what I found after ten working days out of the office: a total of 462 emails of which just over 70 were spam that could be deleted without reading. Of the remainder, 40 were publications or news services I subscribe to and 60 related to my BIFM work. The majority I could answer immediately, the remainder I filed pending the clearing of my Hallmark emails. Just over 40 emails simply weren't relevant to me. I had them because I had been copied into an email trail. And then I had another 30 emails with humorous attachments from friends and associates.
So on average I receive about 45 emails a day and, according to the stats above at least, 14 of them a day are irrelevant with another 10 a day not directly relevant to my work at Hallmark. In truth I was probably spared as the more astute of my colleagues and associates didn't email me knowing I was away. Even so it would seem that at least a third of the mails I receive are not relevant with a further quarter being borderline. I wonder how many of you suffer the same.
I always find it hard not to find an FM angle when on holiday, particularly at the hotel I am staying at or when wandering round a town/city. This year I stayed at a lovely hotel on the shores of Zanzibar which was difficult to fault. However each day as I walked from my room (all the rooms being set in gardens) to the main body of the hotel I was intrigued by one of the hotel employees who seemed to be hard at work repairing the footpath. Each morning we exchanged a "Jambo" (hello) until I couldn't resist asking him what he was doing. He told me a lengthy story, abbreviated below, that will be familiar to many of you.
"Oh," he said, "I work for the maintenance department, the hotel opened four years ago and has won many awards. But the people who designed it wanted stepped paths up from the lower part of the hotel through the gardens. The porters struggled to get luggage to and from the rooms, room service can't push their trolleys and our less able guests find it hard too. I've spent the last three months building ramps for each step. This is what happens when people like us aren't involved in the planning, do you understand?"
Oh yes, I said. I understand.
Ian Broadbent is group facilities manager at Hallmark Cards