Being forced to unplug

Originally posted on the IABC Calgary website, August 20, 2012.

When I arrived at work at 8:00 a.m. this morning, I walked in to a pleasant (or unpleasant?) surprise…the Microsoft Exchange server is down. No email. Nothing getting through on BlackBerry. Nada. Our internal office communicator is working, but beyond that, it has come down to finding a way to get work done without access to email.

Now normally, this probably wouldn’t be a huge problem on a Monday morning. Not having to deal with email kind of eases you back in to the work week. You’re not feeling as rushed. But, my boss has a media event today and needs to send out a media release. My coworker is at home sick, but we didn’t know that until two hours after the day started because she emailed us and no one got it.

Can you remember what a day was like before we relied so heavily on email? My boss with the media event this afternoon? She’s been on the phone all morning contacting media representatives. My coworker who’s at home sick? Luckily we had her iPhone number so we could call her (and stop worrying that something had happened to her). Have a question about something? Walk over to the person’s desk and ask them in person.

Losing a piece of technology temporarily is kind of refreshing. It makes you remember what we did before email. I’m sure there are people reading this who don’t remember a time before email, so imagine life before PVRs or iPhones. Are you more likely to send an email to someone than call them? Pick up the phone next time and you may find that actually talking to someone gets you a lot further and more of the information you need than an email. Do you find yourself using email as a crutch, a time-filler throughout your day? Shut your email program down for an hour and see how productive you can really be (or, just shut off the pop-up that appears every time a new email comes in).  

I know, I know. As communicators, we need to communicate. But maybe once in a while it would benefit us to go back to simpler times. And, three hours after I showed up to work this morning, email still isn’t working, but I seem to be getting a lot done – all of those little things I’ve been putting off, because I can’t distract myself with emails.

What are your thoughts? Could you live without email for a day? An hour? Do you need to be ‘plugged in’ all the time?

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