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Email and cell phones and pagers, oh my! In a techno-savvy workplace, modern day efficiencies are supported, revered and are often held in the highest esteem. The current mobile, virtual, wireless connectivity circus has given us the snappiest of tools and coolest platforms in which to send, receive, and respond to communication. There is no place on earth, figuratively speaking, where you can’t be reached. We are all just a speed dial, vibration or email ‘ping’ away from being reminded that we are not alone in the our universe. We wear our cell phones and pagers like a fancy two-gun rig, wrapped tightly around our waist as if we are preparing for a ring-tone showdown at the O.K. Corral. While it serves no real purpose to criticize the advances made in communication technology, it is important to look at those advances in the context of modern day life in the cube.

Efficiency is the watchword for evaluating all forms of technology in relation to how it affects the short-term and long term bottom line. The technologies we use were never meant to be appendages that require constant care and feeding, but were designed as tools to maximize the efficient use of our time, energy and creative thinking. The latter is tempered by the reality that all intent takes on a broader meaning once human beings are allowed to play with any form of technology. While most of it is good, there is another side of the equation that requires some investigation. Question: Are you any more efficient now that you have this technology? For example, when sending an email, are you mindful of using short, to the point statements? Are you more inclined to send a note whose content is equivalent to the third chapter of War and Peace? If so, are you really surprised when no one responds? Email was never designed to eliminate face-to-face interaction, especially in the same building. When two people, in adjoining cubes, send each other an email to arrange a lunch meeting while they are in their cubes at the same time, then it can only be seen as an inefficient use of that technology. Email is a TOOL, not a way of life. It requires very few words, not very many. It is an informal way of communicating that has formal elements, when used appropriately. An attached document is a clear signal to the recipient that there is something else to be read, beyond the email itself. Rarely, is an additional statement needed. Prior to sending an email, it is important to consider two questions, ‘Will this email be viewed as timely, valuable and relevant?’ and ‘Would I be happy to receive this message?’

Email receptivity is optimized by its relevance.
Cell phones and pagers have a remarkable way of chiming when the owner is in the middle of a one-on-one conversation. Now, the mere fact that it chimes while the person is in a restaurant, at night, on a Saturday in a location fifty miles away is beside the point. Maybe that is the point! The focus of importance instantly shifts from the conversation at hand to the one that just interrupted. Cell phone use comes with no prescribed cell phone etiquette, other than not talking while you’re driving. When issued as an organizational tool, the inherent message is one of instant access, virtual availability, and the never ending quest to always know where you are. Consequently, the length of time in staff meetings increases due to the number of ‘alleged’ important calls that have to be taken and the level of ‘actual productivity’ diminishes due to the ‘perceived productivity’ of being on the cell phone. Efficiency is not measured by everything being done, but only those things that make a difference.


© 2013 Lee E. Meadows
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