Email withdrawal just isn’t possible

This week I am writing my column from a holiday villa in Italy. It reminds me of Colin Firth writing his novel on a manual typewriter in the film Love Actually.

And like Colin (albeit without the eels in the lake), I have no Wi-Fi. I have my laptop, BlackBerry, smartphone, a portable Wi-Fi booster, and umpteen chargers (why is there no standard for all electronic device chargers – surely there’s no competitive advantage in chargers?). But without a mobile signal, there is no data signal.

I don’t think I have been cut off from what is happening on email, Sky News or Facebook since the dawn of creation – well, the mid-1990s at least. How will I survive? Will this column ever get printed? Will I know?

Before I left civilisation, I read an intriguing story that the lawmakers in Germany were thinking of making it an offence for companies to send emails to their employees when they are on holiday. They had accepted the premise that employees are too hooked on their emails not to look, so were attacking the root cause – the whip-cracking companies – and making it an offence to even try to send them an electronic message when they should have more relaxing things to do. How that would work in practice, goodness knows. Do I know when the 10,000-plus people in my company are all on leave? No I don’t.

The idea is to force people to unwind, and get away from this drug known as email.

I have written many times that email is the scourge of modern companies, but I am as big an email junkie as the next person. As such, how can I possibly unwind, in the knowledge that when I get back I will have 2,000-plus emails waiting to be answered, including several hundred from business development people from unknown agencies asking if I got their email? Why do people do that? If I haven’t responded, it means that I haven’t got to it yet or I am not interested. Sending a chaser will not make me more likely to respond.

Oh well, best try not to worry about it. What did Colin Firth say when his (non-backed up) book blew into the lake? “Oh f**k it”. Sounds about right.

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