Messy Desks, E-Mail and Productivity

Ann All

It's no secret that most folks have a love/hate relationship with their e-mail.


We blogged about it recently. Now Tom Pisello, recently wrote about the lost productivity that can result from e-mail overload.


According to Pisello, time spent on reading and deleting spam costs organizations $1,250 per user in lost productivity each year. Another $1,800 per user is lost reading and sometimes responding to unnecessary e-mails from coworkers. And $2,100 to $4,100 a year per user is wasted due to dealing with poorly written communications.


Pisello offers four handy tips for solving some of these problems. Our favorite: A systematic approach, not just a band-aid, is required. Don't just send more e-mails about proper e-mail etiquette, for instance.


E-mail isn't the only productivity drain managers may need to address. According to recent research from ScanSafe, nearly half of all corporate Web visits do not relate to work.


Companies have different strategies for dealing with this, from barring all personal access, to letting employees conduct personal Web business at lunch, to just turning a blind eye to the issue. It's worth remembering, however, that some unsanctioned Internet usage may create compliance issues or even subject companies to liability for employees' illegal activities.


While some employers are OK with short trips to eBay or Travelocity, few want their workers spending more time in Second Life than in real life. This may explain the results of a recent Sophos survey in which some 90 percent of sys admins said they wanted to be able to block unauthorized use of games at work. (Not coincidentally, Sophos has a product that supports barring workers from a bunch of popular online games, including Second Life and Warcraft.)


Yet another possible productivity killer: a messy desk. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, a company with 1,000 knowledge workers loses up to $48,000 a week due to the employees' inability to find and retrieve needed information.


Taking the contrarian view are the authors of a book called, "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder." They contend that it's the really neat folks who are unproductive, as they spend up to four hours a day "just organizing and neatening."


Not only that, they say, but sifting through piles of paper has value. "You discover things that, if you had filed things or containerized them or purged them, you never would have seen them again."

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