A fierce debate broke out today among British companies over whether use of email is stifling productivity.
The controversy was sparked by parallel announcements from Nestle Rowntree and Camelot, which both said they were planning to ban staff from using email for one day a week.
Some companies fear that over-reliance on email may be reducing staff creativity and efficiency. Andrew Harrison, marketing director at Nestle Rowntree, told vnunet.com the firm has banned the use of email on Fridays.
"A no-email Friday does two things. It removes needless information flow across the organisation, and it forces people to talk face-to-face and agree plans mutually. An email ban begins to build a culture of designing and delivering ideas together," Harrison told the Sunday Times.
"People use emails to protect themselves as proof that they have thought about a problem, when often all they do is spend a second writing an email to cover themselves. You can't get away with that in a face-to-face meeting."
Camelot too was reported as entertaining the plan, claiming email could "stifle creativity". However, in the cold light of Monday morning, the company downplayed the idea.
"It's just one of a number of initiatives we're looking at as we move into our second licensing period of running the lottery. We've got some tough targets to meet," said a spokesman.
Other business leaders said they had no similar plans for no email-day trials.
BT, slogan 'It's good to talk', said it supported the use of email. "We encourage communication between staff members whatever system they use, but we wouldn't see email as replacing the telephone either," commented a spokesman.
The government also said it had no plans to ban email. "We find email a useful tool, particularly in cross-department communication, and we have no plans to introduce no-email days," said a spokesman for the Cabinet Office.
A Microsoft spokeswoman queried the reasons behind the ban: "Surely it depends on how you use email?" she said.
Even some of the UK's most creative employees say email plays an important part in the running of their business. "We use email loads," commented a spokeswoman at ad agency TBWA.
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