The rapid growth in communication media is in danger of causing a gridlock in the business place according to a new study prepared by the grandly named Institute for the Future. The results suggest that technological advancements do not replace traditional communications methods but are used in tandem with them, significantly increasing the message load on Fortune 1000 customers, with 71% of workers complaining they feel overwhelmed by the number of messages they receive. Despite a multitude of electronic media options, Fortune 1000 workers rely on just a few core tools for their work communications with mail, phone calls and internal mail, continuing to be used alongside advancements such as electronic mail, cellular phones and software sharing. Seven out of ten workers regularly use at least two or three communications tools, and 16% use four or more. The telephone still remains the most preferred method of communicating externally but e-mail is the preferred internal choice with 66% of respondents, with access to e-mail amongst blue collar workers now almost as ubiquitous as the phone. Despite the predictions of the last few years, Nancy Ozawa, Director of the Institute insists: The paperless office is still beyond our reach at the moment…there won’t be a single communications culture for some time, while it can’t be seamless we have to rely on both. The report, compiled on data collected by the Gallup Organization and San Jose State University, revealed the average worker receives 178 messages per day: just less than a third of those, or 56, by phone, and including 23 on e-mail, 21 by voicemail 15 by fax and 14 post-it notes. One worrying trend according to the Institute is that users want maximum access to other people while minimizing access to themselves. The study identified a backlash against 24-hour access with an increasing number of employees ‘tuning out’ by shutting off beepers or deliberately letting cellular batteries run down in order to cope with the overload of messages. Meredith Fischer, vice president of communications at Pitney Bowes Inc which helped launch the study, claimed the key problem is that social and cultural understanding hasn’t caught up with technology. Some 69% of large companies do not have a communications policy. The ultimate irony of the communications revolution is not lost on Fischer: it’s getting to the stage where people can’t do their work because they’re to busy managing their communications.