Email is a time waster

Reading the paper on the train home from work I came across this article. Banning corporate email seems to be an extreme approach, but I do agree emails are sometimes a waste of time as its a poor form of communication.  I think we have become lazy with technology and send too many emails when a face-to-face conversation or a phone call would be more effective.

According to Radicati, 294 billion (in 2010) email messages were sent per day.  This means more than 2.8 million emails are sent every second and some 90 trillion emails are sent per year.  Around 90% of these millions and trillions of message are spam and viruses.

So by the company, Atos removing emails from their corporate environment they avoid having people waste time or putting systems in place to manage the spam and viruses.  By using  instant messaging Atos employees can increase their communication effectiveness through two-way real-time interaction.  Email is a broadcast mechanism and has little scope for real-time interaction.  However, I can’t help to think instant messaging alone is still a poor form of communication when compared to other alternatives.  It’s somewhere between email and phone conversation.  I have added a few additional communication options, including instant messaging to the below chart first created by Alistair Cockburn.

Many instant messaging tools now support video (including audio) and desktop sharing – so combining instant messaging with video and desktop sharing would provide a better and more effective communication channel than instant messaging alone.

Email still has its place, especially in today’s reality when you have a global economy where teams are distributed across different countries with different languages and culture.  And with this comes the reduced available timezone bandwidth that don’t allow the use of real-time communication channels.

According to the article in Digital Trends, the CEO of Atos Thierry Breton says

“It is not normal that some of our fellow employees spend hours in the evening dealing with their emails.  The email is no longer the appropriate communication tool.”

“Companies must prepare for the new wave of usage and behavior.  If people want to talk to me, they can come and visit me, call or send me a text message.  Emails cannot replace the spoken word.”

For me, I agree with Breton and always prefer face-to-face conversation which explains why I find myself walking between office buildings in the city a lot.

Getting people together face-to-face provides richness in our communication through, tone of voice, eye contact, visual gestures and the ability to convey tacit knowledge.
– from my previous post

Maybe some level of pragmatism is required to educate people on when and when not to use email rather than having a zero email policy.

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One Response to Email is a time waster

  1. Mark H says:

    Chris, I couldn’t agree more! Even in this age, too many of us still rely on email (which to my mind is simply a quicker form of mail).
    IM is an improvement- but even that isn’t as efficient as face-to-face (as you pointed out in regard to body language, expressions, etc.)

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