We send over 100 billion emails a day and spend nearly a third of the working day using email. Can enterprise social technology help us to kick this time-consuming habit?
Email was the first digital communication tool we had, and that seems to have had a big impact on its success. Globally we are now sending over 100 billion emails every day, the majority for work purposes, and most office workers say they use email every hour of the working day. Given the strength of our addiction to email it seems possible that many people may be using email simply because it’s a hard habit to kick.
If it’s so popular, you might ask “what’s wrong with email?” it is, superficially at least, the cheapest, easiest to use and most versatile communication tool businesses have ever had. Many of us say we couldn’t do our jobs without it and yet, many people have fallen out of love with their inbox. The roots of our disaffection with email can be summed up in a single phrase: email overload.
McKinsey, the management consultancy, has suggested that email takes up 28% of the time of knowledge workers (perhaps the most valuable commercial resource of any nation), while other research finds that a large part of this time is spent not answering emails, but on refocusing after reading and responding to emails. Coupled with the cost to organisations of hosting and managing email servers full of duplicated attachments, a need for change becomes patently apparent.
So, what are the alternatives to email? Apart from various housekeeping options to help us use email better, there are myriad social media, chat, document sharing, messaging, conferencing and knowledge-base platforms available now, all designed to save us time. The big question is: do they. The answer is not as clear-cut as we might expect. According to the CIPD, 48% of employees say use of social media leads to information overload.
Organisations seeking to wean themselves off email are often advised to start by focusing on high-level issues such as vision, leadership and culture. But there are also many practical challenges, such as how to motivate staff to use internal collaboration tools, such as an Enterprise Social Networks (ESN), and how to measure progress when they do. There are also suggestions that, to a great extent, success will depend on the project’s capacity to absorb feedback and adapt to change during the rollout phase.
Although industry commentators have been discussing ‘inbox zero’ and charting the rise of ESNs for the best part of a decade, it’s clear that we are still at the beginning of this story. Working people may see email as their enemy but they are only just starting to become familiar with new forms of communication, such as social media, chat, instant messaging, blogs, wikis and video conferencing. Hopefully the in-depth 20-page white paper we’ve published today will provide the answers to many of your questions and help you move forward on your particular journey towards a more effective internal communications strategy.
We’ll be publishing the next post in this series at the end of this week. For the full text download the white paper or listen to the recording of the webinar discussion on which this series was based.