How We Get Work Done: Good Old Email

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    Workplace Productivity Killers — and How to Combat Them

    While attention is focused this week on the CES 2015 show in Las Vegas and all the new technology, gadgets and apps that may change the way we work in the near future, Pew Research has a reminder of the technology that we truly consider indispensable at work: Email and the Internet.

    After a survey of 1,066 adult Internet users, Pew Research analyzed results from those who have full- or part-time jobs. When it comes to the digital work lives of these respondents, the findings indicate, the tools designated as “very important” are nothing new. Sixty-one percent named email, 54 percent “the Internet,” and 35 percent a landline phone. Cell phones and smartphones trailed at 24 percent, and social networking sites grabbed a measly 4 percent.

    Pew notes that email is still king despite increasing awareness of drawbacks, including “phishing, hacking and spam, and dire warnings about lost productivity and email overuse.” In fact, 46 percent of respondents said they think they are more productive with their use of email and other digital tools; 7 percent say they are less productive. Being more productive, these workers report, includes communicating with more contacts outside the company, more flexible work hours, and more hours worked.

    This Pew research doesn’t address the particulars of email usage, but perhaps a good chunk of their respondents have mastered the skill of avoiding checking email too often. Doing so, as several studies have shown, fractures attention and gives the illusion of productivity. Stress levels can also be driven up, says the author of a new University of British Columbia study on the effects of email usage, because email can become an endless to-do list. The study, reports Fast Company, found that checking email three times a day, instead of as frequently as possible, reduced stress levels in participants.


    And those concerned with the future of email in the face of increasing security risks associated with its usage may want to follow the DIME project. Ladar Levison, creator of the now-closed Lavabit security email service, along with a team of developers, is working on an encryption scheme that will allow each participant involved in the creation and delivery of an email to see only the information they require. The Darkmail Technical Alliance, reports Ars Technica, foresees DIME “working in somewhat the same manner as DNS,” and will accommodate enterprise-level discovery and regulatory requirements.

    Kachina Shaw is managing editor for IT Business Edge and has been writing and editing about IT and the business for 15 years. She writes about IT careers, management, technology trends and managing risk. Follow Kachina on Twitter @Kachina and on Google+

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