Way back in 2007, a guest blog in the July/August issue of Fast Company proclaimed “Email is dead” and even proclaimed RSS feeds would come to businesses’ rescue. It wasn’t the first to predict email’s demise, it certainly wasn’t the last, and there’s probably plenty more of these claims to come. One of the more recent was Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield tolling the death knoll for business email in the next two to seven years ahead of his company’s IPO listing in June.
However, despite these claims of 12 years apart, email is not only alive and kicking but remains the heartbeat of many businesses. Every day, 212 billion emails are sent and received, email accounts for 23% of the average employee’s workday and workers check their email inbox 36 times per hour, which equates to 30 hours per week.
In fact, the only thing that can be proved to be dying off is business productivity as a result of poor email etiquette.
Employees’ ineffective email practices
Employees spend an average of 1.8 hours every day week searching and gathering information, according to a McKinsey report. That, on the assumption of someone working a 9-to-5 job with a one-hour lunch break, means employees waste more than 25% of their working day looking for information. Or, as McKinsey puts it, “businesses hire five employees but only four show up to work; the fifth is off searching for answers, but not contributing any value.”
Furthermore, email is ranked as one of the top productivity killers in the workplace, behind texting, surfing the Internet, using social media and gossip, by CareerBuilder. And 61% of UK workers say that email stops them from getting work done, according to a Workfront survey.
Email, the silent business killer
Employees have become far too reliant on email. Rather than focusing on preparing documents, completing project tasks or creating drawings that are necessary for hitting deadlines, they are working long days and sending emails outside of working hours.
All too often a new email notification distracts from real work and kills employee productivity and momentum. Furthermore, Outlook is often used as a complete management and communication tool and email inboxes are used as a project folder. This inevitably leads to email dictating employees’ days.
Email isn’t just draining employee effectiveness, it’s also killing business profitability. Information held in emails is regularly stored ineffectively and incorrectly. Employees fail to store emails in shared folders, which in turn are often difficult to search. This makes it increasingly challenging to complete tasks and projects on time and within budget, which forces people to have to work longer hours.
Reduce the burden and breathe life into your business
To increase effectiveness and transform tedious email management into productive tasks, businesses need to implement best practices that reduce distractions and the volume of email.
Take control of your email: Turning off new email alerts and only checking your inbox at specified intervals will see tasks ticked off faster than ever before and, most importantly, on time and budget.
Action email as you read it: Rather than skimming emails and leaving them for later, take a more action-based approach to handling your inbox. Adopt the 4Ds principle of deal, delete, delegate or defer to ensure cleaner inboxes and more effective work.
Inbox information highway: Decide between priority emails that need to stay in the fast lane and those that need to be diverted to the hard shoulder. Use the Rules function to divert less important emails into the correct folders.
Send fewer emails: This may sound simplistic, but the more emails you send and the more people you tag, the more emails you will receive. Keeping sent emails to a premium will better business productivity.
Keep it short and sweet: Writing emails that are short, succinct, well structured and free of spelling mistakes makes life reduces email back and forth and enables recipients to read and respond more quickly.
Improving email performance across the business is essential to reaping the benefits of the medium - especially for project-based businesses that use email as their primary communication tool. Doing so is reliant on deploying an email management application that:
- Makes all emails accessible across the organisation and secures those that are highly sensitive
- Prompts users to save received and sent emails into the appropriate shared files
- Finds emails in seconds when searching across a project
- Keeps inboxes as small as possible
- Ensures easy access and remote filing
For more information on how Mail Manager can help your business, read how our improvement of Oswald Professional Engineers’ email management processes helped it speed up project delivery in this case study.