How E-Mail and Social Media Changed Our Lives

It’s easy to glance at the survey, “The New New Inbox: How E-mail and Social Media Changed Our Lives,” and come away a little worried.

These are just some of the conclusions that jump out: “We are caught in an e-mail vortex, death-trap,” “Social media is misused and contributing little to productivity,” and “Workplace interruptions pose a real threat to productivity.”

It’s not the kind of stuff you want to read in a survey about technology trends.

But there’s really nothing to fear. And that’s the point of the report.

Harnessing social media for the good

I got a chance to talk with Pierre Khawand, author of “The New New Inbox” and Founder and CEO of People – On the Go, which helps companies manage technology information. We spoke about how companies need to harness the power of social media – for their own good and the good of their employees.

“Social media is big, it’s happening, it’s where people’s mind are,” Pierre said. “Businesses that take the approach that it’s bad or a waste of time because it takes the focus off of work are going to miss out in a big way and eventually they may not survive.”

But, he added, the current model of use of social media in the workplace needs to change.

“It needs to be better managed, that’s what’s not happening yet. We need to have better tools to educate us and be more strategic,” he said.

Just don’t expect that to happen overnight.

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“These changes are going to happen when the next generation takes over. They won’t happen in the next year or two.”

Key findings of “The New New Inbox”

Some of the key findings in the study include:

  • E-mail is still king and its usage still outweighs social media by 3 to 1; we are caught in an e-mail vortex, a death-trap, and no one knows how to escape.
  • Social media is on the rise and future generations will redefine its use in the workplace, however, today social media is misused and contributing little to productivity and business results.
  • Workplace interruptions pose a real threat to productivity and are far more significant than expected; the New New Inbox — defined as a melting pot of Web 2.0 and social media channels, including e- mail, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, LinkedIn — threatens to shrink the bottom line.
  • Tremendous opportunities exist for tools that can help streamline and “socialize” e-mail, manage interruptions, and take information off of e-mail to more appropriate information sharing technologies.
  • Social media has shattered the divide between business and personal use while creating further divides between generations in the workplace, between functional areas, and between companies of various sizes.

Make social media part of the HR initiative

The survey reinforces what we’ve talked about for years – that social media has revolutionized the way we talk to each other and employers must learn how to effectively integrate it into their communication.

Pierre said employers should take the initiative and begin blogging, have an internal form of sharing information and maybe even start their own Wikis – all effective ways of using social media without taking the fun out of it.

“HR, operations and administrators really need to dive in and make social media part of their initiatives and part of how they communicate in order to resonate with their audience, who are right now much more social media-centric,” Pierre said. “They need to be on top of social media so they can connect with their people in their language.”

You can download the survey results here. Or, visit to learn how to get a copy of the full report.

Jennifer Benz is Chief Strategist and Founder of Benz Communications, a San Francisco-based consultancy that focuses on custom, comprehensive benefits and HR communications services. Jen is an active member of the Council for Communication Management, the International Association of Business Communicators, the Northern California Human Resources Association and Women in Consulting. Contact her at