Sorry I Missed Your E-mail

If you're sick of e-mail, then do I have the employer for you: US Cellular, where every Friday is No E-mail Friday. According to an ABC News report, US Cellular has banned all Friday e-mail for the last two years. No matter how much employees need to e-mail each other, on Fridays they simply can't. Instead, they must pick up the phone, or stop by each other's office in person, or just go home for the day because, you know, it's not like they can get any real work done without e-mail.

US Cellular is not alone. Many other companies have similar programs, though you probably know it better as "the day the friggin' Internet went down and I couldn't do any work." In some companies, this also takes place weekly, though in the interest of spontaneity usually not on the same day each week.

There are many reasons a company would resort to a policy like this:

a. It helps with productivity. According to The New York Times, a recent Microsoft survey revealed that it takes approximately 15 minutes to recover from an interruption caused by an e-mail message. It takes even longer to recover from surfing the web, like you're doing now.

b. No mater how many times you're disappointed, the sound of new mail is still exciting. It's difficult not to drop everything you're doing and easy to kid yourself that maybe this time the message won't be work-related.

c. Such a policy helps to forge more personal relationships at work. Interestingly, one man told ABC News that because of this policy he discovered that someone he was e-mailing worked on the same floor as he did, rather than across the country as he had assumed. Now, they meet up regularly, much to the chagrin of the other guy who actually had his co-worker convinced that he worked across the country: "Dear Dwight, here's that report. If you have any questions, e-mail me back, seeing as I'm way across the country in a different office on a different floor, where because of the time difference it's almost quitting time. Best, Jim."

d. E-mail can really cut down on one's ability to use instant messaging and shop online.

e. It can create the perfect day on which to consolidate all your illegal activity. Embezzle on a Friday, and you know there'll be no e-mail trail. Those corporate types are always thinking.

This, of course, is a ludicrous idea. What's next? No Web Wednesday? Typewriter Tuesday? Mimeograph Monday? Yes, e-mail can interfere with your work, but it still plays a vital role in our economy, and sometimes you just need to forward all your co-workers a picture of George W. Bush with a stupid expression on his face. Some things just can't wait until Monday.

Granted, I'm not completely against the idea. I would be very much in favor of a Friday ban on all incoming e-mail to me. That would be great, but there are times that I need to send an e-mail on a Friday. And I'd sort of like for it to be read before Monday.

This was all the idea of Jay Ellison, an executive vice president at U.S. Cellular, which partly explains why every employee interviewed in the article was positive about the idea. Sure, they hated it at first, but "eventually, the policy won over staff members." From this, we can safely deduce one of two things:

a. That it truly was a great idea, or

b. While potentially satisfying, telling ABC News that your boss's ideas are stupid is generally bad for your career.

In the interest of fairness, I was going to e-mail Mr. Ellison for a comment on this, but unfortunately it was Friday.

Of course, I don't mean to be entirely negative. According to ABC, US Cellular does have a sequel to No E-mail Friday planned that I'm very excited about: no meetings Friday. Now there's an idea that I think we can all agree upon.


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