The Impact of E-mail Communication on Organizational Life
Daantje Derks1, Arnold B. Bakker2
1,2 Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands Abstract
Computer-mediated communication (CMC) has become mainstream in work life. This raises the question what the impact of CMC on our daily work is. Since e-mail is still the most prevalent form of CMC in organizational life, we focus predominantly on e-mail communication. The central aim of this paper is to give an overview of research on the impact of e-mail provided by personal computers and smart mobile devices on work using the JD-R model as a framework. In other words we interpreted the results of the studies used to show which aspects of e-mail communication can be considered as demands and resources, and hence complicate or facilitate our working life. The costs of e-mail seem to be disproportionally loaded on the recipient who has to deal with excessive amounts of e-mail and the pressure to answer these e-mails as soon as possible. A smartphone increases the flexibility of an employee but facilitates working long hours with a risk of disturbed work-home balance at the same time. Technology in itself is neither a demand nor a resource; it is how we deal with it. Keywords: CMC, JD-R model, e-mail, job demands, mobile technology, smartphone.
The impact of e-mail communication on organizational life
Imagine an ordinary day at work. You probably start in the morning with a cup of coffee, greet your colleagues and then the inevitable happens, you log in on your computer. For many of us the latter simple action has become automatic behavior and we don’t even realize that this act is dominating the rest of the office day. E-mails constantly ask for attention and intrude our working schedule. The Linked In (a business-oriented social networking site) profile needs an update, one has to respond to messages on the discussion board, scan the company network for news messages, etc. Only few have the discipline to structure the day in such a way that they plan fixed times to deal with e-mail. Remarkably, the answering of e-mail is rarely part of our job description, but more an underlying assumption of the functioning in nowadays’ organizational life. It is evident that computer-mediated communication (CMC) has become very common in work life. E-mail is still the most prevalent form of CMC within organizations. And, in fact, the increasing use of mobile devices in business has given the experience of e-mail a new dimension. Therefore, in the present paper we focus predominantly on the impact of e-mail, provided by personal computers as well as smart mobile devices, on organizational life. There is a still increasing number of studies on the social psychological aspects of computer-mediated communication, but to date the impact of mobile e-mail on organizational life has been neglected. Obviously, as with every new innovative technology there are advantages and disadvantages in using it. The original idea of e-mail was that it facilitates our communication and makes lives at work easier. Unfortunately, there are, besides advantages also side effects. This theoretical paper aims to overview the impact of (mobile) e-mail on organizational life. The impact of e-mail on a regular workday is inherent on differences between e-mail and face-to-face (F2F) communication. McKenna and Bargh (2000) listed these differences in four categories. First, physical distance is no issue on the Internet, in a fraction of a second one can interact with someone at the other end of the globe, where regular mail takes days or even weeks. The second aspect, time, is two-folded. It can be an influential cue in interpreting a message. When a colleague sends you an e-mail at 2 am you put it in another perspective than when you receive the same message at 10 am. The Internet is a speedy medium that allows us to reach a large group of people in one delivery. Third, unlike in F2F meetings,...
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