The typical corporate user sends and receives about 115 emails daily. Around 20 percent of the emails received are considered spam—including ‘graymail’ like unwanted newsletters or alerts.
It is estimated that the typical 1,000-Email–user-corporations spend over $3 million each year trying to prevent and manage spam. So much money and effort would not be expended if spam was not seen as a threat to productivity and efficiency. Yet despite this anti-spam war being waged by America’s corporations, they may be ignoring an even bigger problem.
An Email Worse Than Spam
Shayne Hughes, CEO of Learning as Leadership, recently placed a week long ban of email on his company. His employees balked initially, thinking that there was no way they could go a week without using their email. They worried that they would not be able to get anything done. Too much time would be wasted standing up and walking to the colleague in the office next door, just to say something that could have been sent quickly in an email. There would be a breakdown in communication they feared.
Hughes thought that the exact opposite would happen. According to Hughes email had become a great time-waster and stifler of productivity. Hughes claimed that email does this in 4 key ways:
- About three quarters of all email traffic is internal, or between co-workers. Reading, processing, managing, organizing and responding to email absorbs a vast amount of time. The email sent and received is generally a mishmash of crucial topics and trivial information. We waste time plodding through dozens of unimportant emails just so we don’t miss the potentially crucial one.
- Email is rarely the best method for tackling the issues at hand. Emails bring quick questions that don’t have quick answers. They usually contain long, informative rambles with no clear action steps.
- Email facilitates lazy and thoughtless communication. Often email is used to pass responsibility for a challenge on to someone else. Just hit the ‘send’ button and we no longer need to worry about the issue . . . until someone else sends us their problem an hour later.
- Email occupies so much time and creates a frantic, stressful work environment that leaves little time for thoughtful and creative problem solving. We trick ourselves into thinking we are being productive when we are sending and receiving a lot of emails.
A Work Place without Email
After Hughes implemented the no-Email ban he saw a drastic change in his work life. He claimed that a “sense of calm descended” and he began to wonder what he should be doing with his time. He was able to move forward on ideas that had been hanging around in the back of his head but that he never felt like he had time for. He was able to carve out “power hours” in order to tackle challenges straight on. The workplace mentality shifted from a desperate struggle to stay on top of all the emails to a more focused and productive one that strove to make real improvements. Stress decreased for everyone.
How to Use Email Effectively
Unfortunately, most modern companies could not survive indefinitely without email. Even Learning as Leadership returned to the world of Email after their week long experiment was over. There are, however, efficient ways to manage email and prevent it from taking over. Hughes warns that Email should never be used for problem solving but can and should be used to transmit clear, defined information like the time and place for a meeting or administrative tasks.
It may be difficult to make such drastic changes in email habits. If a week without Email seems impossible then a change in any of the ways suggested might help relieve some of the stress at work. This might just be the change you are looking for.
This is a guest post. Robert Cordray  is a freelance writer for noomii.com . He has seen businesses grow and succeed, and also seen them fail. Often times it’s the unwillingness to try something different that can be the difference maker. Besides giving business advice to just about everyone he knows, you will find Robert enjoying life with his beautiful wife and three kids.
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