ALEX COHEN, host:
From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY.
You know, this morning I had actual work to do. I really didn't have time to wade through the endless spam about cheap deals on Viagra, nor did I really need to know that there's a new frozen yogurt out for dogs. Don't even get me started about those e-mails from my editor. It turns out that there's a name for this sort of situation; it's called e-mail overload. It's become such a problem that some companies are declaring e-mail-free Fridays.
MARKETPLACE's Sam Eaton joins us now. Sam, e-mail-free Fridays. Have things really gotten that bad?
SAM EATON: It's pretty serious, Alex. Nearly 100 billion e-mails are sent worldwide every day, and that's more than a six-fold increase since 2000, so you can see where these e-mails are coming from. You start to think about how few of those pings in your inbox you actually have to respond to, and it becomes more than just an annoyance. It's a productivity issue as well.
Experts say it takes at least four minutes to re-focus on your work after checking your e-mail. Multiply that by all the junk you get throughout the day. And some say e-mail's distracting qualities have outgrown its convenience.
COHEN: But is the solution really to go cold turkey? That's a little frightening.
EATON: Well, a growing number of business managers do think so. Today, a group of Intel engineers are the latest to instate an e-mail-free Friday policy. Some prominent tech bloggers have even declared e-mail bankruptcy and are deleting their entire inboxes and starting over. But most businesses with e-mail-free Fridays aren't going that far.
One company, PBD Worldwide Fulfillment, banned only internal e-mails on Fridays. Scott Dockter, the company's CEO, says before we instated the ban a year and a half ago there were people in this office who never even talked to each other. Now they go out of their way.
Mr. SCOTT DOCKTER (PBD Worldwide Fulfillment Services): I talked to our general manager in Chicago this morning. How are you doing? How is it going? What do we have on the plate for today? Anything we can do to help you out? And it's as simple as that, instead of sending an e-mail and, you know, checking in on those things, and that we find it's just much more effective.
COHEN: Actually, talking to people, that's such a novel idea. Sam, is there any sense that this is actually working out for companies?
EATON: Well, in the case of Scott Dockter's company, he says it not only increased productivity, it changed the entire culture of his workplace. PBD has managed to cut its e-mail load by about 75 percent. So even though its employees are avoiding internal e-mails on Fridays, they've also cut the number of e-mails they send during the rest of the week.
And more importantly, in these days of BlackBerries, or CrackBerries, as some call them, after-hours e-mails have been reduced as well. Now, one of the ways they've done this is by posting documents on the Web instead of forwarding them to all of the employees. In that way people that need to see them can pull them up without bothering anyone else. You have to remember that spam isn't the only problem here. About 20 percent of the e-mails we get are automated alerts, and personal e-mails are about equal to the amount of spam we get.
COHEN: Thank you so much, Sam. That's Sam Eaton of public radio's daily business show MARKETPLACE. It's produced by American Public Media.