Dominic Batstone


Software Development, Process Improvement and Career Progression.

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Dominic Batstone

The email that costs $125,000

27th January 2016
The Bye Bye Email

You're hard at work coding something cool when an Outlook notification pops up. "It's from the company it must be important" you say to yourself.

Open it up. Oh, some random executive you've never heard of is leaving and being replaced by some random executive you've never heard of. Really. And this has been sent to the entire company of X,000 employees.

Sound familiar?

I wonder what the motivation behind this is. If it was the CEO, or someone else with a "C" in their title I could understand it but does the entire company need to stop working to find out that Mr or Mrs nobody is leaving? This is particularly poignant for developers and thinking disciplines where it's easy to get quite engrossed in work.

In The Flow

In one of my favourite books, Peopleware by Tom Demarco & Timothy Lister they write about Flow (page 63).

During single-minded work time, people are ideally in a state that psychologists called flow. Flow is a condition of deep, nearly meditative involvement. In this state, there is a gentle sense of euphoria, and one is largely unaware of the passage of time: "I began to work. I looked up, and three hours had past".

and they continue;

Unfortunately, you can't turn on flow like a switch. It takes a slow decent into the subject, requiring fifteen minutes or more of concentration before the state is locked in. During the immersion period, you are particularly sensitive to noise and interruption.

Excuse me while I interrupt you

So that's hit the nail on the head. All the engineers across the company are engrossed in their job and they suddenly get some random interruption about something that has zero relevance to them. Each one will now lose at least 15 minutes getting back into the flow. Maybe some will chat about the futility of the corporate email and spend even more time not being productive.

The cost of massaging an ego

Let’s say your company has 5,000 employees who all got the email. Obviously there are many differing pay grades to reflect different skills, and some people won't even read the email. There are others that will spend at least 15 minutes getting back to work, chatting about it or just looking out the window! Assuming the average hourly rate is $100* and the average lost time per employee is 15 minutes we can do the math:

5,000 / 4 = 1,250 hours
1,250 X $100 = $125,000

How much????

An email about someone you never met, never knew and has no influence over anything you do in day to day life has just cost your company $125,000 in lost productivity!

This figure seems farfetched, but think about a time when you received an irrelevant corporate email and ask yourself:

  • How long did you read it for?
  • Did you chat to your neighbour?
  • Did you go for a coffee/smoke/toilet break?
  • Did you lose track of what you were doing and had to retrace your thoughts?

Maybe it's not as farfetched as you initially thought.

*if you think $100 is high for an hourly rate, find out what your company charges when it sends you or colleagues out to a customer site then divide by hours in the working day.

Culture & Security focussed developer finding ways to increase happiness and efficiency so we can all work easier with better quality code, relationships and lives.

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