Workers, managers at odds over email - or are they?

A survey leads employers to recommend a workers' communications behaviour guide

Contrary to what you'd expect, fewer workers than managers are convinced that email increases productivity, but the credibility of a survey supporting this finding is in question.

According to a survey of 3,000 employees from four Asia-Pacific nations, 70 percent of managers believe that email increases workplace productivity. However, they may be a little out of touch with their staff, of whom 63 percent of those surveyed support the assertion that email enhances workplace productivity.

Other survey revelations, however, are less clear and leave its value in doubt.

"Managers were less enthusiastic about the Internet, with only 48 percent believing it increased productivity and 27 percent say it decreased productivity," it reads.

The wording used in the survey, which makes references to email and the Internet as separate and equal office devices, has invited scepticism about the survey's credibility, with one spokesperson for an Australian Internet interest group pointing to the ambiguous wording as evidence that the survey group is struggling to come to terms with its subject.

"What I find interesting is that some people can see email as being separate from the Internet while, to you and me, it is just part of one communications revolution" he said. He refused, however, to comment on the survey findings themselves.

Garie Dooley, MD of the company that commissioned the survey -- Kelly Services Australia -- said that the survey wanted to draw the distinction between the use of the Internet as an external communication device and email as tool used primarily for internal communication.

"'Internet' meaning more of an external tool; the use of the Internet to transfer agreements, tender documents, proposals that sort of thing," said Dooley.

How the documents might be transferred over the Internet was not clarified.

As a result the survey Dooley made a series of recommendations regarding worker behaviour online.

He said that it was vital that with "increasing use of email that organisations develop policies to guide employees on the proper use of online communications."

"These should cover issues such as privacy, personal use, monitoring, downloading of software, access by third parties, and illegal use of the Internet."

According to Dooley, the consultant group contracted by Kelly Services to carry out the research may have delivered "some" of the survey by email, but he wasn't sure.

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