I’m going to share something with you. Something that I feel more people need to consider implementing and that is……. to stop using email.
Before you disappear, let me explain the method behind my madness, the benefits of doing so, and the companies that are seeing transformational results by following suit.
But first, some statistics and research. Incredibly we send over 269 billion email messages every day, which is a mind-blowing statistic. However, recent studies have found that a whopping 49.7% of emails received are considered to be spam.
Workfront.com recently surveyed 2,001 enterprise workers across the U.S. to capture how work is being done today, what challenges workers are seeing, and how these trends might play out in the near future.
The most interesting findings from the study were related to the use of emails are below:
My two final stats before I get into my case for people to stop or reduce using emails is that replying / creating emails takes up 23% percent of the average employee’s workday, with the average office worker receiving 121 emails and sending out on average 40 per day.
My problem with email is that fact that it just feels, well… a dated way to communicate. When you consider how communication has changed so rapidly over the last five years, it just feels like email has been left behind. Yes, I will admit that email still does have its place in certain situations, however, the vast majority of emails simply don’t need to be sent or at the very least, require half the amount of time spent on them. Emails have been proven to add stress to employees, and are a massive drain on productivity.
I’d like to share with you an example I found whilst carrying out a little research for this blog from a gentleman called Thierry Breton, CEO of an information technology company called Atos Origin.
Thierry was appointed several years ago and shortly after he noticed that his employees (totalling 70,000 across the globe) seemed constantly distracted by the mountain of emails that landed in their inbox every single day. Going back to my previous statistic regrading email taking up 23% of employee’s day, that’s a huge waste of productivity when you have 70,000 employees. So, with this observation, Thierry took the very bold decision to eliminate what he believed was having the biggest impact on his company’s productivity.
So, in 2011 Atos banned email. Yep, 70,000 employees across the world in 40 different countries were told “stop using your email”. Thierry wanted to rid his company of what was perceived to be a massive communication bottle neck.
In its place, Atos created an internal social network which allowed employees to join groups, based on projects they were directly involved in to keep updated on and check-in when required. Team huddles and ‘stand ups’ lasting no more than 10-15 minutes were implemented across the company, allowing team members to quickly discuss their priorities and whether others were required to assist with certain tasks.
If multiple teams were involved in projects, specific team huddles were either visible on the internal social network to either attend in person or individuals could be kept updated via the project group. Employee stress levels were reduced as employees simply stopped reacting immediately to every single notification that appeared on their desktop or mobile device.
Further, employees got to know one another far better by speaking to each other face to face, as short huddles were a simple way to break the ice. The results? Staff members reported great synchronicity and didn’t feel segregated by their teams.
Moving forward to today, Atos still has not reached the magical 0% email usage, however the reduction efforts are having an incredible effect on the business. The company has reduced overall email by 60%, which is just insane! With the average employee sending an average of 100 email messages per week before the ban – to less than 40 per week.
In a striking correlation (and all may not be attributed to the email ban), two years later Atos’s operating margin increased from 6.5% to 7.5% in 2013 and earnings per share rose by more than 50 percent.
This is an extreme case I will admit, and even my Generation Y mind struggles a little to comprehend a 0% email usage company, as at Gradwell uses email marketing to great effect, and if we lost that channel, we’d certainly struggle.
Ironically, at the time of creating this post – Outlook is down – so this post couldn’t have come at a better time. #megalols.
If your inbox looks anything like mine, it’s a mix of internal and external emails. Let’s start with the internal ones. Most of these could be dealt with a quick face-to-face huddle, or via an instant messaging app such as HipChat. I can hear you saying “Well, you just go from managing your inbox to Hipchat”. True, however services like HipChat are perfectly suited for short messages that need a simple response, so reduce waffling or confusion.
If you’re part of a team, you could consider switching to software such as Slack or Monday.com who are leading the way in terms of team collaboration, having one dedicated area for all communications and utilising instant messages to keep communication key.
Our team, check Monday.com first thing in the morning, every morning, to check for updates and messages. We have a team huddle once a week to go through priorities too, just to keep everyone in the loop. This works really well for the team, but I would encourage you to experiment with ideas yourself.
External emails are a little tricky, however my top tips are if you need to reply, keep it short and sweet. If an email requires a more lengthy reply, set up a call, and send a follow up after the call. This will avoid a lot of time in your inbox, and probably obtaining the answers you require quickly.
Finally, don’t have access to your work emails on your mobile device or if you do, turn off the notifications. I bet there are a few people reading this who have their evening’s ruined by receiving that late night or Sunday morning email.
The rapid change in the way we communicate outside of work through services such as WhatsApp, Telegram or even twitter – where the messages are predominantly shorter – really is the way forward. It is my personal belief that if you’re sending an email of more than 300 words, pick up the phone to them to discuss it instead. You could get an answer immediately and if you REALLY need to, follow up with a summary, and update your SLACK group or Monday.com Pulse with a list of bullet points.
Email is a ‘Blunt Instrument’ and can actually cause internal issues when the pressure is on, or when the message has been misunderstood . Just go and speak to your colleagues or pick up the phone, this might be more intrusive but gets the job done faster!
I think if more companies restricted the use of emails and adjusted peoples mindset, companies would see a positive increase in productivity.
One final note and again, this is my own personal opinion, employees have to realise that they’ve been employed to carry out a very specific set of tasks, to bring knowledge, skill or experience to a company and NOT simply to manage an inbox.
If you believe you’ve had an ultra-productive day by clearing out your inbox, I would suggest you rethink your current priorities…
So, are you ready to join the revolution?