MELISSA BLOCK, host:
E-mail trouble of a more benign kind now, and an effort to stop it. It is Friday, and that means it's No E-mail Day at the company PBD Worldwide Fulfillment Services based in Alpharetta, Georgia. Its 250 employees can still exchange e-mail with people outside the office, but internally they're supposed to abstain for the day.
Scott Dockter got the idea. He's CEO of the company, which takes orders and ships products for other companies. He says it all started when he realized his e-mails were frustrating members of his staff.
Mr. SCOTT DOCKTER (CEO, PBD Worldwide Fulfillment): One of them was my assistant, who sits 20 feet away from me. About two months ago, we were exchanging e-mails on a topic and I just yelled out to her: I think I can come talk to you about this and we can get it solved a lot easier. One of the values of our company is to work better as a team, and teamwork does not work real well when all you do is e-mail each other, especially when you have exclamation points on every e-mail, that there always seems to be that sense of urgency.
(Soundbite of laughter)
BLOCK: Or smiley faces.
Mr. DOCKTER: Or smiley faces. And I think the other thing we saw was that there seemed to be a huge use of the reply-all button, which is a little bit of a pet peeve for me. And it appeared to me that people were really just covering themselves versus the necessity of doing that.
BLOCK: When you started doing this, did you go through any sort of withdrawal symptoms that first day when you were cutting back your e-mail inside?
Mr. DOCKTER: I think, like a lot of people, I have my Trio. And it seems like if I'm not trying to synch-up my e-mails every five minutes I feel like I'm missing something. That's become a little bit of an addiction for me personally, and I saw it in my senior management team, who was, in the middle of meetings, checking e-mail, and I saw it in front of one of our customers.
I think the other thing that was a little frustrating was seeing all the e-mails coming after 8:00 at night. And while I appreciated people's work ethic and efforts to get things done, I was concerned that they were doing that on their family time. And in fact, just simply when somebody has done a good job for us or it's even their birthday, I find that it's a lot more effective to see them in person and give them that message than send an e-mail, which is nice, but the personal touch just seems to make a big difference.
BLOCK: Mr. Dockter, do you find that on Mondays everything's back to normal, maybe even more e-mail than before because people have stored it up? All those things they wanted to say on Friday they're just now saying on Monday.
Mr. DOCKTER: Well, I'll tell you, the first two or three weeks that we did this we had a few individuals who actually found a way to time their e-mails that they wouldn't be sent until 12:01 on Saturday morning.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. DOCKTER: So that was very crafty, and, you know, I think we were missing the point. Mondays have actually gotten back to normal, as if nothing was happening on Friday. I think the bigger point is is we've cut over 50 percent, company-wide, the e-mails that were being sent.
BLOCK: Have you had any employees complaining, maybe saying, you know, there are just people I really don't want to see. I don't want to talk to them. E-mail's great.
Mr. DOCKTER: No question, yeah. It starts with me. Some of them don't want to see me as much as they've been seeing me lately. But, you know, there are some people who are pretty frustrated by this, so we're trying to adapt to make sure we don't disrupt things that, in the normal course of business, should be done.
And I'll give you an example. Today I've received two internal e-mails, and the two e-mails that were sent - absolutely necessary, and I'm glad they sent them. They couldn't get me by phone. It was an important situation. So if we keep it to that, then I think we're going to be successful here.
And somebody else asked me today, they said, well, are you going to move this to more days a week, and the answer is yes. Because in theory, if we can do this on a Friday, we should be able to do it on just about every day so that it's not just one day a week.
BLOCK: Well, Scott Dockter, enjoy the rest of your no e-mail Friday there.
Mr. DOCKTER: Thank you.
BLOCK: Scott Dockter is CEO of PBD Worldwide Fulfillment Services in Alpharetta, Georgia.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
This is NPR, National Public Radio.