There are a lot of people I know that are bombarded with email and for many of them it has become one of those dreaded daily chores. It is even worse when left unchecked for a period of time. I’ve heard a new term that aptly describes this phenomenon as "Email Jail".
Luis Suarez, a Social Software Evangelist from IBM, has been actively experimenting on "Giving up on Work e-mail". His status report for Week 4 makes for a very interesting read. I’ve been communicating with him through twitter on this subject and he still receives email but then actively encourages conversation through other means and tools.
About a year ago, I wrote about email, in a blog entry titled "Email that’s what I use to talk to my Grandfather" inferring that the newer generations entering the workforce, or indeed currently working in it, expect more modern tools for communicating then just emails. Invariable, they use other tools to communicate to their friends and associates but revert to email to communicate to their older relatives. A year on I’ve seen a steady rise in the usage of sites like facebook from within the confines of the corporate work environment. Some organisations have embraced these off-premise communication means and some have blocked them. But for both, email is an issue. The availability of which now has a critical impact on daily operations.
We actively use Lotus Sametime for our daily work, Alex has written up a blog entry on his experiences with it. This enables us to minimise our email usage, to really offline communication (Offline Sametime would be good IBM) or to information that we need to send external to other organisations. Everybody I show Sametime to, is impressed with it as we can also share screens (take control of other screens), use white boards and quickly capture screen shots and snippets in a conversation to expand meaning.
Now we are also experimenting with a wiki server for public and offline "walled garden" communication and it is open to others, who register, to collaborate on content with us. More on this later in another blog entry, as I see this as being an ongoing exercise.
For us, we lose productivity if our Lotus Sametime services is not available, thus it would be more critical for us to have that facility operational than email.
So if you are stuck in "Email Jail" the first step is to acknowledge it and the second step is to find other means to communicate. Even picking the phone up can be an escape (we’d prefer to use a VOIP service like Skype over traditional landlines).