Is your business inbox overflowing? Have you had to archive whole batches of email messages – unread – just to make room for new ones?
According to a 2015 study by the Radicati Group, email volume worldwide continues to grow at an explosive rate. The technology researcher found that, despite the growth of instant messaging and social media, more than one-third of the world’s population will be using email by 2019. And each user will have an average of 2 email accounts.
Email is a staple of today’s digital economy.
Even with the rise of social media, personal users still have to have email for online banking and every other kind or transaction. As for business users, the study estimates that they will send and receive almost 130 billion emails each day over the next four years.
Is it any wonder we suffer from falling productivity? And is there anything we can do to stop the trend?
Useful communication – or needless noise?
Only 25 percent of the emails we receive are essential to doing our work. If three-quarters of our email are “unnecessary,” think how often we’re needlessly distracted by that “you’ve got mail” ding. Even if our employees turned off their email for most of the day, they’d still have to sift through a mountain of email for at least an hour.
Why so much useless email?
We usually communicate with everyone in our teams by using (or misusing) email lists. Here’s what happens:
- We send an email to a list of 20 people, when the input of only two is required, spamming the others with messages having nothing to do with their work.
- Even if a “list” isn’t used, we explicitly include anyone that might remotely be interested or feel “left out.”
- Everyone is now trapped, with no way to remove themselves from the email thread – doomed to receive every painful reply.
Without intending to, we’ve become our own worst enemy – just one continuous, noisy distraction for everyone.
Collaboration, not just communication
On an endless email thread with countless persons being copied, the original sender’s request often gets lost in all the responses. There is no real accountability, because no one really knows who is expected to do what.
What we really want is work together – to collaborate to resolve the problem. Ideally, it would work something like this:
- You send a question to a small group you think will know (or be interested in) the answer.
- A recipient can add someone more knowledgeable to the topic.
- An uninterested recipient can remove themselves from the topic.
- Anyone on the thread can provide relevant documents to the topic, for review and even updates, via a content repository.
- A sender or recipient can assign tasks to another party, removing ambiguity on “who should do what” and providing progress to everyone.
There are more possibilities, of course. The conundrum? Email won’t get us past the first step.
The right tool for the job?
Email was designed to deliver electronic messages between a sender and one or more recipients. It was designed for only the most basic collaboration task: messaging. The more we try to force it to do the rest, the more we fill up all our inboxes and sap our productivity.
Even with integrated contacts, calendars, instant messaging and ”presence,” true collaboration is beyond the capabilities of most email applications. We need tools designed for collaboration activities – queries, topics, subscribe/unsubscribe, tasks and progress. Today a number of such tools are available. Most are cloud-based. Some are mobile-centric, while others are for the desktop. Some even offer free versions.
If your organization is suffering from the email conundrum, consider test driving one or more of these collaboration tools – and help stop the email madness.