How many emails are sent to your work inbox every day? And how many of those are actually useful? Sift through the spam and the email ping-pong between you and your colleagues, and there might not be many left.
This raises the question – are we too obsessed with emailing others at work? Thierry Breton, the CEO of French technology firm Atos, seems to think so. He’s taking steps to ban internal email from his company communications by 2014, replacing it with instant-messaging tools or documents that can be edited by multiple users online (like Google Docs).
Breton may be onto something as well, with recent surveys showing email use declining rapidly among young people who prefer faster, less formal means of communication, like Twitter and texting. But can this really work in the office?
Stop typing, start talking
Working in an office, email is a large part of my work-based communication. It’s often easier to ping an email across to multiple people, rather than having to go round to each and every one of them with the same message. But can emailing go too far?
At my last workplace we all had to email each other when we were going for our lunch break, as colleagues had to cover the phones. I’d be deleting around 20 emails at the end of the day, most of them titled ‘Lunch – back 2pm’. With all these non-essential emails floating around, it was sometimes difficult to track down the important ones.
Emailing doesn’t do much for office relations either – have you ever had the phrase ‘it’s good to put a face to the email’ pass your lips? Breton claims his managers spend between five and 20 hours a week reading and writing emails – with only 10% of the 200 messages his employees get daily being useful. That’s a fair chunk of time being spent on email communication.
Emailing outside work hours
It’s not just Breton questioning our reliance on emails at work. Volkswagen is going to stop its employees from sending Blackberry messages when they’re off-shift, after complaints that their work and home lives were becoming blurred.
And the maker of Persil washing powder, Henkel, declared an email ‘amnesty’ for its workers over the Christmas period, saying messages should only be sent if there’s an emergency.
These measures shouldn’t be particularly surprising in themselves. After all, you work a certain amount of hours and you shouldn’t have to reply to emails outside of them. We all need downtime, even if we find it hard to ignore our work emails.
But this debate is wider than whether you check your work emails outside of work (which we’ve talked about before) – could live without work emails altogether? I’m not sure if I could.
Could you live without emails at work?
No - I rely on email (53%, 93 Votes)
Yes - I definitely could (25%, 43 Votes)
Maybe - I could use email less (22%, 38 Votes)
Total Voters: 174