HR Strange But True!
October 11, 2007

It's back to the future. Employees used to have to talk to each other to convey information, or type a memo with several carbons (wait, we're going back too far). Now, one of the highest-tech companies, Intel, is experimenting by asking 150 engineers in the IT department to stop using email on Fridays. Yikes, they may have to speak!

No, this experiment wasn't thought up by Dr. Phil; it was initiated when workers read an interview by Intel CEO Paul Otellini in the Financial Times, where he criticized "the fact that engineers two cubicles apart send an e-mail rather than get up and talk." He suggested that emailing was stiffling creativity and collaboration.

Thus came the "Quiet Time" pilot program. Since this sounds like something in nursery school, workers in the Santa Clara, California, facility are calling the program ZEF for "Zero E-Mail Fridays."

While Otellini blamed the physical constraints of the "cubicle culture" for the problem, not employees. In a blog, one of the engineers has stated that he and his coworkers actually wanted to experiment with no email days to eliminate what they consider constant interruptions caused by those pesky messages. Now, colleagues have to call each other or­oh, the horror--walk over to another's cube, so it will only be for the most important discourse (well, unless there is an important game to discuss or some hot office gossip).

The experiment will last about a month, after which participants will be surveyed to get their reactions.

This isn't the first time for no-email zones in Silicon Valley. In 2004, Veritas Software tried the same no Friday email program--by sending out an email announcing it! And in Chicago, U.S. Cellular and several other companies have ZEF programs currently in place.

Sources: Wired Blog and IT@Intel Blog

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