I’ve recently  learnt of a company that does, in addition to ‘No Meeting Wednesday‘ ‘No Email Wednesday’ where they switch off their mail for the day to help minimise distractions, just for a day. A little digging around in the Companies Behaving Awesomely database showed me that their are even some companies that do ‘No Meeting or Email Wednesdays’ which is a powerful recipe for a distraction-free day.

Email overload is a problem in far too many businesses. At some point over the last decade or so, email entrenched itself as vital to business and now we are so intertwined with it in our daily doings that most of the time we can’t see a way out, and just keep plodding along, 350 emails at a time.

Atos Origin, a France-based technology services firm was determined to free themselves from email, and so they monitored 300 employee’s email for a week. In that week 300 employees sent or received over 85 000 emails. Thats a cool 284 mails a week, roughly 57 a day (5 days), or 7 an hour (8 hour work day).

When the company surveyed the participants, it found that the majority of them felt that they couldn’t keep up with their emails, that the time spent trying was time wasted, and that the effort to stay current with email kept them from dealing with more important tasks…

But then again, we essentially knew all this. Atos Origin CEO, Thierry Breton was unsurprised by these numbers. He was well versed in ‘email pollution’ having stopped using email when he worked for the French government because it took up too much of his time. To correct the problem he simply banned email.

Of course he didn’t do it immediately but he did set his over 70, 000 person strong organsation on the path to being ‘zero-email’. In an effort to find the most effective tool to use for communication they went through a rigorous research process and eventually created a social network for the organsation. On the network ‘conversations are not automatically ‘pushed’ to employees’ inboxes, interrupting their focused work time. Instead, employees can choose to enter the discussion on their terms and their schedule’

The network decreased email volume hugely although they are not quite email free yet. It also had other powerful effects – knowledge flow across the organisation increased and it became easy to locate subject matter experts. Employees report feeling more collaborative and productive using the network.

More and more we are seeing how email may actually not be the best thing for our businesses, but is there another option? Yes, have a look at Slack.com  not only is it a very user friendly experience, it lives on your device and computer, Slack reports its users seeing a 48.6% decrease in email. Whatever solution you choose – if you want your business to function at its optimum and a mountain of email is getting in your way, start clearing your path now. If you have a ‘cc’ culture consider how you might eliminate it? Encourage people to default to face-to-face communication, after all, an email never mobilised anyone. It might seem tricky at first – but Atos Origin, a company of roughly 70, 000 employee is managing so it is possible.

The inspiration for this article came from here

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