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The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"The pace of change is accelerating"
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The BBC's John Moylan
"Success of e-mail may be at the expense of the staff"
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Thursday, 22 June, 2000, 05:13 GMT 06:13 UK
Office workers drowning in e-mail
Cyber-cafe
UK employees are receiving more e-mails
By the BBC's Maria Brown

British workers are fast catching up with their US counterparts in the number of e-mail messages they send and receive.

According to a survey published on Thursday by global business communication specialists Pitney Bowes, the average UK worker now sends or receives around 190 messages every day - only five fewer than American workers.


Get up from your desk and go and talk to them

Mark Hastings, Institute of Management

Although the new technology is supposed to be making workers lives easier, it seems the pressure to handle increased numbers of messages could be giving workers a new source of stress in their working lives.

British workers are now receiving so many messages they are beginning to suffer from e-mail overload.

Sarah Sweetman, of business psychology consultants Nicholson McBride, said e-mail was hailed as a great opportunity in the early days.

"But as people are using e-mail to even sell the latest batch of kittens over the e-mail it just actually is becoming more and more a frustration and a burden to manage," she said.

Netiquette lessons

For some companies the answer is in the classroom.

Several high profile companies have sent executives on courses to teach them how to communicate effectively through e-mail without adding to the already bursting in-box.

Graham Schrivener, of e-mail trainers In Tuition, tells clients business is based on relationships and relationships are based on verbal communication.

He said: "I don't think that business understands that its relationships with clients are built on face to face way and you can't replace.

"You just need to know and understand how e-mail fits in with that type of communication process."

Good practice

Whilst training courses may not suit everyone, management experts are agreed that companies need a clear policy on e-mail etiquette to help make their employees lives less stressed.

Mark Hastings, of the Institute of Management, says it does not necessarily need a course.

He said: "It's a bit like learning to use the telephone in an office, it's just good practice.

"By all means send an e-mail to your colleagues in Tokyo but if its a colleague across the corridor just get up from your desk and go and talk to them."

Part of the increase in email traffic in the UK can be explained by the rise in workers joining the e-mail system over the last year.

But there is little doubt that over use is causing many employees severe stress.

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See also:

22 Jun 00 | UK
Is e-mail out of Ctrl?
24 Feb 00 | UK
E-mail stress overload
15 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
E-mail security bubble bursts
02 Sep 99 | Medical notes
Stress at work: the pros and cons
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