Workzone: Firm has zero tolerance policy for email folders

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If just the concept of clearing out your email box every day makes you break into a cold sweat, then the thought of working for Evolution Finance might induce heart palpitations.

The Washington, D.C.-based company -- which owns the Cardhub.com website where consumers can shop around for the best deal on a credit card or gift card and the Wallet Hub personal finance site -- has a "zero inbox" policy.

"When I was first told about it, it made me really upset," said Liana Arnold, the spokeswoman for Evolution Finance.

As anxiety inducing as it sounds, she now thinks it helps employees to prioritize their work.

Of course, that's easy for Ms. Arnold to say, since she is one of the few exceptions to the company policy. Still, she does try to keep her inbox well down in the double digits.

The idea behind the zero inbox policy, she said, was that management can look into employees' email and determine if an individual needs help. If someone has messages sitting unopened or unresolved, that could be an indication.

In Ms. Arnold's case, she either answers email or forwards it to her assistants to handle. She also can go into her assistants' email and see if they need help on any aspect of their own work.

"I will get it under 25 [messages in the inbox], go to lunch and it's up over 100 when I get back. All I can think is, 'Were they breeding in there?' "

The zero inbox policy started when the company was just a startup tech firm creating a reputation as a place to search for credit card information.

On Card Hub, consumers can just check off what they want in a credit card. Users check boxes of information reporting their own credit rating and what perks they want, such as no annual fee, cash back or zero percent interest on purchases. Then the website produces the list of cards that meet that criteria. A consumer can apply for a card from the list.

Later the company added Wallet Hub, which lists rates for car loans, home equity, mortgages and credit cards and for savings on certificates of deposit, savings accounts and checking accounts.

"As we've grown, I've been able to chisel off parts of my job to my assistants," Ms. Arnold said.

As the company spokeswoman, she has hundreds of media contacts for newspapers, radio shows, television stations and even large blogs. And though she tries to tailor press releases to specific audiences, some generate 50 to 70 replies in just minutes, which is why she gets the Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card for the zero inbox policy.

"When you walk out at the end of the day with an empty inbox, you have a real feeling of accomplishment," she said.

businessnews - yourbiz

Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699. First Published October 19, 2013 8:00 PM


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