I am definitely a candidate for a “work-from-home” job. I find that actually having to meet with people is inefficient, for several reasons. I prefer to send emails when I can.
Some of the advantages of e-mail:
- Emails are their own archiving system. I don’t have to try to remember or write down what someone was saying. I have a bad memory and a terrible short-hand. Also, writing something down means the other person needs to stop talking. I cannot listen and write simultaneously. Also, I am naturally disorganised – pieces of paper get misplaced.
- No need to find a single time slot in which you are all available. Everyone can answer and send emails at their convenience. I like to send emails when I am busy thinking about whatever it is I need to correspond about. Then I can write down what I need to say and send it off so the other person can read it whenever.
- No need to think in real time. Emails beat verbal communication because whatever you want to say can be reviewed and edited. You can take time to formulate questions and responses rather than having to go uhmm and ah and “I’ll have to think about that”. If you’re like me then you get tongue-tied when you have to think and talk at the same time. If you’re talking to your boss nervousness does not help.
- No embarrassments. I am far less likely to sound stupid in an email than in person. This is because of the things mentioned in the point above.
- No time wasted in travel. If you have to travel to a meeting, this is wasteful. Also, it takes up energy (physical energy), and emits carbon (unless you’re biking). And if you don’t have to go in to work at all, just think of all the time and energy you are saving.
- No need for irrelevancies. There are the mandatory salutations and greetings (the formality of which varies), but in general less time is spent on “how are you?” and the like and you can get straight to the point.
- No need to wait around somewhere when the person you’re meeting is late.
I even email people who are in the same room as I am because then I don’t need to go up to them and interrupt whatever it is they’re busy doing (or what I’m doing). In fact, I like it when people are not in the same room because then I have to send them an email. I admit it, I am an introvert. I avoid people.
You might think that there are things you cannot put in an email. Maybe so. But there are some innovative solutions to common problems. You might think putting maths in an email is overly time-consuming or just impossible. Not so, if you know Latex, which you must if you’re studying mathematics. I picked up the habit of typing Latex for all the maths in my emails from my maths professors. We send e-mails riddled with latex code which can easily be compiled and viewed (there are some nifty online gadgets for this – for instance here) – if needed. Most of the time the latex is perfectly understandable without compilation.
I admit sending around Latex in your emails is something only a maths student will do. But it works. And I like it. I also admit that there are a number of disadvantages to e-mail correspondence. People may reply late or not at all. Some (especially very emotional) things are harder to put into textual form. Tone is (mostly) lost. Nevertheless, for work-related things, I prefer email. For personal interaction, usually face to face is better. So, if you want to contact me, leave a comment, or send me an email.