A recent announcement by Google came with much fanfare and excitement from most Gmail users. The introduction of voice and video chat capabilities is viewed by most as an exciting step forward for the already “feature-rich” Google e-mail interface. Slowly but consistently, Google is creating a centralized portal for users to communicate with the world through a multitude of mediums. The addition of Google voice and video chat is simply another addition to what is most likely a growing list of upcoming additions.
However, instead of considering the new features a positive step in multi-media experience, the real truth is that most Gmail users should consider it an invasion of personal productivity and have the right to feel an ever increasing sense of disappointment and concern. There’s 3 reasons why the addition of Gmail voice & video chat should concern most users.
Reason #1: Personal Productivity
The first involves the growing “Email Monster” phenomenon that attempts to destroy daily productivity levels. Let’s face it, e-mail is a great communication tool but it is not today what it was intended to be when it was created. Or maybe it is and people just do not care. But the use of e-mail in your personal and work environments hinders productivity no matter how it is measured. The time savings realized through immediate communication are more than offset by unproductivity through the reading, writing, sending, and receiving of SPAM, non-value add information, and the urge to remain on the lookout for “that” e-mail.
The announcement by Google to integrate voice and video chat into Gmail simply furthers the concern for additional productivity loss. The fact that voice and video exist at all is enough of a scare as it will pull people away from what they should be doing. HOwever, the fact that they exist within an e-mail interface is even scarier as the time spent in your Gmail inbox will no doubt increase.
Reason #2: Additional Distraction
A huge problem with e-mail involves its role as a distractor. How many times have you logged in to check an e-mail only to check a second, third, and many more? It’s generally hard for anyone to not check an unread e-mail and this leads to an ever increasing number of distractions and opportunities to be pulled away. It does not take long before an e-mail leads to a website or another article that you read and ultimately compound the distraction issue. Effective productivity is lessened by distraction and e-mail is enough of a distraction by itself. Unfortunately, the addition of voice and video chat serve as additional distractors that can only have a further negative affect on your time.
Reason #3: Increased Pressure To Login
One of the most important ways to combat the Email Monster is to “unplug” from e-mail altogether. However, human nature and curiosity often gets the better of a mental war of most people. The pressure to log into your e-mail account is already high. Yet the additional of voice and video chat will only contribute to the problem and make it increasingly difficult for those users who have made the important decision to “unplug”.
Overall, Google has demonstrated an great sense integration and centralization of its tools and has rolled them out in a way to enable faster and more widespread communication. However, this same integration and centralization is poised to have severe and negative consequences on Gmail users when viewed from a perspective of personal productivity and daily accomplishment.