Spira: You can't micromanage and put too many limitations on people, because that will only breed resentment. But you do have to make sure that work is getting done. I think it gets down to creating a workplace environment that lends itself to the fewest number of distractions possible.
1. Set reasonable expectations. For instance, a lot of companies and people feel that emails have to be responded to within minutes. Set reasonable expectations when an email is not urgent for replies "by the close of the business," "within 24 hours" or something that just strikes everyone as a reasonable balance.
2. Communicate. You have to discuss it amongst employees. We want to make sure that we're on the right path to making sure you're not overloaded by email or feeling you need to drop other things just to respond to emails, because most emails are not mission critical and they can wait.
3. Adjust policy and procedure as needed. Take a step back and examine how you work. Does it make sense for us to work the way we work? Are the tools that we are using meeting our needs? Are our customers happy? Reach out to talk to customers, partners and suppliers -- how do they feel about the way we communicate and collaborate to make sure that we're aligned with them in addressing their needs?
Take this March Madness period as a period of inner searching and reflection and talk to partners, suppliers and customers to make sure that we're actually doing things in a way that works for them and vice versa.
But shouldn't there be some limitations?
Spira: Even trying to put limitations on things today is a fool's errand. There was a time when you simply didn't make personal phone calls or you didn't get them. If you got them, it was because your neighbor was calling to tell you your house was on fire. When you were at work, you were working. It's not like today, where you're texting and talking to friends while you're at work. It went down the tubes when mobile phones became more prevalent. If Web sites are blocked, you can go on your smartphone.
Instead of putting restrictions, you want to teach people healthy attitudes toward the work they are doing.
You have to look at this as a certain enlightened approach. The draconian approach of clamping down does not work. The enlightened approach of setting expectations is just raising the fact that there is such a thing as information overload.
To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.
To follow Laurie Kulikowski on Twitter, go to: http://twitter.com/#!/LKulikowski
>To submit a news tip, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.