Break the Email Habit

In my first article about stopping the email communication I wrote about what are the problems working with email. Oscar Berg introduced an “opt-in culture” to leave the “occupational spam culture”. Today I want to write about Oscar’s article “Time to Break the Habit of Internal Email”.

In this article Oscar show some interesting statistics how employees uses emails and how much time they spend for email related tasks. Statistics show that “an average corporate employee spends around 25-30 percent of his workday on email related tasks”. We just spend 14 percent on communication and collaboration, though. These two figures are not meaningful for themselves, let us have a closer look what we are doing with emails.

A large portion of time is simply spend on “organizing, archiving and deleting emails”. Time that is not productive at all, it is just used for managing our inbox. More statistics show that about “7 percent of our received emails are spam”, another “11 percent are non-work related”, and 63 percent are used for inter employee communication. That is now the catch we can continue to look on.

The time we spend for managing and working with email itself is also not the big issue “if we did it in one chunk”. Actually I try working with emails just twice a day when I am very busy. In the morning I have a look on these and right after my lunch break. I switched off all disturbances like pop-up windows, sounds and other possibilities to show me an incoming email. I decide when I read the email. It works most of the time. However, most of the people do not work like this. They are stressed and overwhelmed from the email flood and they do not recognized that is due to their working style and how they handle emails. Their curiosity and the amount of interruptions and refocusing on their email work again make people feel stressed. “An average manager typically get interrupted every 8 minutes.”

Oscar asks the question “Why have we arrived at this situation?” now. The answer is simple and well-known: It works as designed. What does it mean? Emails were designed for an one-to-one communication first. Companies in the late 70th and early 80th were different to nowadays. “Work was not mostly collaborative, one-to-one and not geographically distributed”. With the advent of the “Reply all” feature the email flood and many-to-many communication could begin.

Emails got convenient and widespread. Over the years “our brains got wired to emails”. The latter makes it so difficult to change our behavior. There are well-trod trails in our brain and email is our first choice. It needs a strong impulse, a radical approach now to establish different trails and different tools, side-by-side to emails. For this reason I think that the demand to vanish emails and the following discussion is necessary. We will see how it continues in future.

I will write about another 2 articles from Oscar about the email issue soon. Stay tuned.


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