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Should Workplaces Ban E-Mail?

Thursday, March 15, 2012 by Slaughter Development

Email productivity seems like a contradiction in terms. That’s why one company is making headlines by claiming they have outlawed this technology in the workplace.

You can read the story in many places, including this piece in the Daily Mail:

One of the largest information technology companies in the world is to ban e-mails – because it says 90 per cent of them are a waste of time.

It believes that too many of them waste hours dealing with irrelevant e-mails, so wants them phased out within 18 months

The business is called Atos, and they are right about one thing when it comes to email productivity: most messages are worthless.

There’s plenty of banter on this subject. A series of columns published by the New York Times can be summarized as follows:

  • “Atos’s decision to ban e-mails between employees is likely to prove futile, particularly since the online alternatives can be equally distracting. The real challenge is to figure out how to make people think twice before hitting Send.” - Nick Carr
  • “E-mail itself is not the problem. It’s how we use it. One solution: get rid of the Reply to All command.” - Peggy Duncan
  • “E-mail isn’t the only problem. Any tools, including the ones Atos will now use internally, can fail us if used thoughtlessly. ” - William Powers

If we can’t kill the monster, is there a way to improve email productivity? The easiest solution is just not to answer it.

Seriously. Consider changing your email usage policy as one in which you respond the next business day.  Suddenly, you won’t be able to dash off a quick note and expect a quick reply. Within a few hours, people will assume you are in a marathon meeting. Within a few weeks, email will start to become correspondence again.

Ultimately, if we aim to improve email productivity then we truly seek to focus on meaningful communication. Break the cycle by making this technology less frantic. Collaborate and produce on a time frame that actually makes sense.

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Like this post? Here are some related entries from The Methodology Blog you might enjoy:

E-Mail Overload: Why E-Mail is like Oil - Once again Slaughter Development’s founder tackled the topic of email. This time however, he utilized a simple analogy to demonstrate the powerful effects it has on business productivity: E-mail is like oil: indispensable if used right; despicable if used wrong. Read on »
Workplaces and Workspaces - In the last few decades, real estate has become more flexible when designing and utilizing spaces. Unlike previous generations where structures were built for one particular purpose, it’s common nowadays to see homes with offices and commercial buildings with restaurants and shops. And though this flexibility certainly brings more convenience, is it actually increasing our inability to focus?  Read on »
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