Yes, It’s Evil: Why You Really Need to Restrict Email in the Office

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For years I’ve known that email is evil.

But it wasn’t until I started working in a team that I realised how much time and energy gets swallowed by this creature. We all learn from our own mistakes.

Email is just like a game of Tetris. You start with a clear goal of getting your inbox down to zero. When you’ve achieved that and turned your eyes away from the screen, you hear a notification. Yes, it’s that annoying sound that tells you got a new email.

There’s not a chance in hell you could actually win this game — unless you accept this and move on to better tools and methods.

Why should you restrict the email usage in your team?

1. It just wastes a lot of time

Yes, email really does waste a lot of time. On average, the office worker spends 25 percent of their work day answering and sending emails.

This means, 1500 hours a year goes to writing emails, searching for information, and attempting to “collaborate” internally.

We spend more time dealing with our mailboxes than collaborating and communicating with co-workers. That’s a bit much, don’t you think? Focus on improving your internal communications. Using more social technologies in the workplace could reduce email use by 25 percent.

2. Group conversations quickly get overwhelming

If there’s one thing I dislike the most, it’s the email group conversation. These are long email threads that encompass little value but create a lot of confusion. They are full of unnecessary “thanks” and “I got it” phrases, and within a short amount of time, these emails get overwhelming.

If Atos managed to remove email from its 74000+ team, so can you. By replacing it with a social technology, you are able to raise the productivity of interaction by 20 percent.

3. It kills valuable tacit knowledge

Tacit knowledge is already a difficult piece of information to be transmitted from one team-member to another. Choosing email as your preferred medium, makes it even more challenging.

For every 10 minutes we spend on our actual job, we tend to spend seven (7) minutes on email. The more time we spend on email, the less time we have to contribute in a meaningful way.

4. You get no overview, whatsoever

The bigger the team, the harder it is to get a clear overview. Going through your mailbox to see who’s responsible for what is not that productive either.

Here’s what is worse: People are expected to answer emails within a matter of hours. Checking email is the most popular activity on smartphones. Over three-quarters (78 percent) do it regularly. Whatever happened to calling when it’s an emergency?

5. It destroys focus

Being constantly logged in to our mailboxes has hit our productivity hard. On average, we check email 36 times. That’s 36 times without acknowledging that it takes 16 minutes to refocus after handling an incoming letter.

Why should you be cut off from your precious inbox? Because workers who are cut off from email focus for longer period of time and are less stressed.

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We constantly struggle to find time for work that really matters. Perhaps it’s time to focus our effort on tasks that have an impact.

6. It restricts transfer of knowledge

Email is private. It’s between the sender and receiver.

Although this feature might be useful while closing deals and communicating with external partners, it’s unhelpful within teams. You never truly know which piece of information might be beneficial for another team member.

By using email you also limit the ability for others to learn from the information transfer. No-one but the email receivers are able to benefit from the knowledge transfer.

7. It brings a whole lot of confusion

It takes more time to process one email than it does to write one. With all the magical features like the CC’s, BCC’s and Reply to All, valuable information gets buried deeper and deeper every minute of every email.

To make its people more mindful about who they include on a message, Nielsen management got rid of the reply-all button from its internal email software. Email has become so casual that people need to be taught how to use it mindfully.

8. It’s just anti-social

By its nature, email is anti-social. Efficient teamwork, on the other hand, demands flexibility, transparency, and clarity.

In my Weekdone team, we have substituted emails with Weekdone team reporting software. This enables us to view and comment each team-members key achievements, plans and problems. Conversations stay in their relevant context and quick overview is always granted.

So, let’s all just spend a little less time finding our way in the mailbox and focus on efficient teamwork. Ditch the email and find a tool or method that suits your team.

There are hundreds of alternatives that give a better platform for internal communications.

Külli Koort is a fierce proponent of achieving more with less frenetic effort. That’s why she works at Weekdone, a start-up that builds progress report software for managers who wish to gain more insights to their teams. You can connect with her on Twitter.

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