Can you wear sneakers to work with a suit? Ask McArdle

Plus, how to stop pointless e-mails

(Illustration: Peter Arkle)

(Illustration: Peter Arkle)

My staff keep forwarding me pointless e-mails. How do I get them to stop?

I’m rarely nostalgic for the bygone days of business technology. A single telephone can now do the work of a personal assistant, an abacus and several hale carrier pigeons. But I occasionally miss the era when carbon paper was required to send multiple copies of the same missive. Having to spend that one-tenth of a cent was enough to cause one to pause and ask, “Does Jones really need a carbon copy of this?” But with e-mail, a carbon copy—or a “cc” as the hipsters call it—is free and therefore prone to overuse. Fortunately, businesses are now recognizing the costs associated with indiscriminate e-mailing. Ferrari, the Italian maker of red automobiles, this summer announced a new policy that restricts employees from sending e-mails to more than three co-workers at one time. “The injudicious sending of e-mails,” Ferrari explained in a statement, “is one of the main causes of time wastage and inefficiency.” So you may wish to petition for a change to corporate policy. But if you happen to be an executive with influence, there is a simpler solution—send fewer e-mails yourself. A research team from the University of Glasgow and Modeuro Consulting recently asked executives at International Power, a London-based electricity company, to think twice before sending an e-mail. This moment of sober second thought caused the executives’ e-mail production to drop 54%. It also meant fewer e-mails for underlings to address. In all, the company’s message output fell by 64%. All told, the company gained 10,400 hours of work time annually. They gleaned all the benefits of carbon paper—with none of the dirty fingers.

144,800,000,000 e-mails are sent every day • 65% of those are spam • An average employee spends 11.2 hours responding to e-mail weekly • That’s almost 30% of her time


What’s the market for a $20-million used yacht?

Are you skeptical that Ron Joyce, co-founder of the Tim Hortons pastry empire, will find a buyer for his 49-metre yacht? The doughnut purveyor purchased the Destination Fox Harb’r Too in 2008 for $30-million, but is selling it now for a mere $19.9 million. You might assume that anyone able to afford a multimillion-dollar boat, replete with five bedrooms and two hot tubs, would prefer to purchase one that still has its new yacht smell. But as the publisher of Professional Yacht Broker magazine informed me, there are good reasons to purchase a second-hand craft. “The biggest advantage is instant gratification,” says Jim Ramsey. “You buy it right now and you can have it for the weekend.” A new yacht, on the other hand, might require a two- to five-year wait as the craft is designed and built (“These things don’t just slide off an assembly line,” says Ramsey). And much like a new house or a bespoke suit, a fresh yacht will likely require a few tweaks to eliminate glitches. So buying used might be worth finding a few doughnut crumbs in the upholstery.

Can I wear sneakers to work with my suit?

Viewers of MasterChef, the delightful televised cookery competition, have grown accustomed to seeing restaurateur judge Joe Bastianich wearing tailored suits with brightly hued athletic shoes. Similarly, when young Justin Trudeau met with reporters last month in Charlottetown, his blazer was paired with distinctly casual footwear. If you wish to emulate either look, understand it will be a matter of fashion, not comfort. You cannot simply opt for scuffed gym shoes with your three-piece. The sneakers must be pristine and distinctive enough that it’s clear you are making a statement, not nursing a bad back.

Need advice? Want to settle a debate? Go ahead, ask McArdle anything:

Illustration by Peter Arkle