British Firm Cries "Uncle" to E-mail Deluge

September 19, 2003 ( - Like most business people these days, workers at British phone company Phones 4u have often been buried under e-mails with a scant connection to their jobs.

Now, according to a Reuters report, Phone 4u and CEO John Caudwell are fighting back. Save for one “briefing” e-mail sent to each of the company’s 2,500 employees every morning, its computer servers won’t transmit any in-house electronic missives at all.

Figuring that the move would save each employee about three hours of wasted e-mail searching per day, Phones 4u estimates a potential savings of about $1.6 million a month.

“This is a total ban on internal e-mails,” said an unidentified company spokesman quoted by Reuters. “(Other than the “briefing” e-mail) staff are being told they will have to communicate either face to face or by phone.”

The new policy doesn’t mean clients and suppliers will have to pick up the phone or pay the company a visit in order to conduct business, however. Customers can still e-mail and expect a reply in kind while Phones 4u will also continue to contact some suppliers electronically.

Phones 4u’s new policy, started this week, will be enforced, but executives aren’t exactly anticipating carting anyone off to e-mail jail. “To be honest though, the policy doesn’t need much policing because managers are already coming back to us and telling us how liberating it’s been, not having to trawl through thousands of irrelevant e-mails each day, the spokesman said.”Once you’ve been sucked into the e-mail trap, you’re in it forever.”

For his part, CEO Caudwell said misuse of e-mail was the problem — not e-mail itself. “It’s a very effective tool if used properly,” he told BBC Radio. “While I do believe that e-mail in general is the absolute cancer of British business, I only believe that because of the misuse of it.”