Stop and think about this for one second, and try to follow this bouncing ball:
- A lot of people (probably a majority) do check their e-mail at off-hours, i.e. night-time at home.
- When they’re doing that, a subsequent large number are probably doing it via their phones.
- They may respond to a few — usually from people above them, if I had to guess — but mostly they’re just scanning and “checking for fires.”
- Those e-mails, though, are now marked as read.
- When that person comes to work tomorrow morning and deals with his/her laptop/desktop, those e-mails will seem like old news — here’s a new batch to deal with, so I better get started on those…
- Those “read” e-mails from the previous night, especially if they’re from people down the chain, will become less of a conscious element.
- (Remember: humans can only hold about seven things in their memory at a given time.)
- This is a problem.
Why is this a problem?
- People e-mail ideas and concepts at different times of day — either when they’re available to do so, or when they think the reader might have the greatest chance of opening it, reading it, internalizing it, etc.
- For example, tomorrow and this week I want to send a few “pitches” out to write for some external places. I’m breathlessly analyzing when I should send these e-mails. In reality, no one knows. You could send a 9am Monday morning e-mail and get a response, or send a 4pm Thursday e-mail and never hear back. It’s a crapshoot.
- This mobile-back-to-the-office thing is a mess, though. E-mails sent at night and hastily looked at/responded to won’t stay in consciousness for that long.
- If those e-mails contained a great idea or a productive hack or even involved an employee asking for something akin to engagement/feedback, that dog doesn’t hunt.
In this way, mobile — and the ability to e-mail pretty much wherever and whenever — made our lives so easy, but at the same time they made our lives go down a path where it’s really easy to totally miss great ideas or engagement concepts. Rather than a totally functional organization, we’ve created an organization that’s largely based on when someone received an e-mail and how important that e-mail seemed to that person at that time. Since hierarchy dictates a lot of that — “Well, I’ve gotta answer e-mails from my boss!” — we’ve created a top-down crapshoot because of our reliance on mobile to “be on the grid at all times.”
Anyone else feel this way?