Why we need to conquer our addiction to email

We have become almost totally dependent on email, even though it is inefficient and time-consuming – we need to adopt better ways of communicating and working together. Email seems to rule our working lives. It has become the primary form of communication between customers, suppliers, partners and colleagues. We all spend hours struggling against the tide of emails that arrive in our inbox every day. Yet many of these emails are probably unnecessary and email is – when you think about it – a very inefficient and slow way of communicating. When you send an email, you will typically need to wait for a response before the process or activity can move forward. Yet you usually have no way of knowing (read-receipt requests are dismissed by most users) if the recipient has successfully received the message, and even if they have, whether they have read it and understood it. Documents sent via email have to be filed away somewhere in a folder. If the recipient works on that document, it has to be renamed and sent back. There are now two documents – and there will probably be more versions before the editing process is completed. This is a disjointed process, and there is no real control. Fragmented communications Added to this, users might communicate using entirely separate instant messaging apps, or even via SMS. They might also be using multiple devices to do all these things. We are using different apps and tools to do different things, even though those actions are all related to the same task and objective. There is no way of keeping track of all this activity. Collaboration tools bring all these capabilities together – and also provide video conferencing, and screen and file sharing. With everyone involved in a project or task, all connected within the same virtual workspace, it is much easier to connect and communicate, and there is a full record of all communications. Everything is in one place. So why then, aren’t we all using collaboration tools? The main reason is habit and the fear that if we suddenly try to switch to a different way of communicating, we’ll be in danger of losing our connections. Yet in some organisations, the switch is being made and email is being left behind. This is not due to corporate enforcement, but user behaviour. Slow and cumbersome Millennial and Generation Z workers are used to connecting with social media apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, which in essence are collaboration tools in themselves. These users expect to have the same capabilities in the workplace and many individuals in this generation do not use email any more. It is too slow and cumbersome for them. They have become used to sharing within groups and getting an almost instant response from individuals within that group. There are other benefits of good collaboration too. It enables teams of workers to interact and stay in touch constantly, wherever they are working. Individuals who can’t necessarily get to the office easily or as often can keep in touch. Members of the same teams can be located at any distance – even across continents. For all these reasons and more, collaboration rather than email is the future of communication and teamwork in organisations. It is also a key driver for digital transformation. It won’t be easy to cure ourselves of our addiction to email, but in time we believe that all organisations will realise that collaboration tools provide a much better way for us all to work together. If you’d like to read more about our views on communication and collaboration, please read our A better way of working together whitepaper.
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