Last month a warning was issued from Sir Cary Cooper, a British professor and formal government adviser, that obsessive email checking is hurting staff’s health and productivity. It hardly comes as a surprise that email is having this effect on workers. How many emails do you get every week? What percentage of those need to be answered promptly and distract you from dedicated tasks you’re working on? Probably more than is healthy. What’s worrying is that this isn’t an issue isolated to one part of the world – globally there are people that are unable to concentrate on their tasks because of the abundance of emails clogging their inbox.
We recently attended a roundtable hosted by Project Magazine and it was evident that email still rules the roost when it comes to collaborating in teams. Not only this, did you know that 67% of project managers still respond to emails outside of working hours? Email is not only affecting work in the office, it’s also affecting work-life balance.
According to our Chaos Theory research, inefficient ways of working are costing managers 20 working days a year. A significant proportion of that time is probably spent responding to emails that could’ve been dealt with through another form of communication.
The good news is that companies are trying to reduce the use of email to tackle inefficient ways of working. Ferrari, for example has previously announced it was clamping down on email to encourage staff to talk to each other.
Although more face to face time can reduce the need for emails, it’s not going to solve the productivity challenge. Email isn’t the real problem here, but more so the way it is being used (and abused). It’s easy to drop someone an email to simply ask a question about how a document is progressing, or who’s working on what, etc. But these types of emails end up filling everyone’s inboxes with unnecessary items. There is a better way to keep track of projects and their progress; online collaboration tools. They allow teams to share and edit documents, managers to assign tasks to individuals and progress to be updated within the program, and with no email insight and with full transparency.
Organizations need to talk to their employees and invest the time to find different tools that will reduce the number of emails going back and forth, whilst improving productivity. Remember that user-friendliness is essential when selecting this technology. If people aren’t comfortable using the tools you have put in place, they’re likely to start using the apps and software of their choice, and if you don’t have the visibility and security policies in place, you could end up dealing with ‘Shadow IT’. The term has become commonplace in organizations and refers to IT systems and solutions that and used inside companies without their explicit approval or awareness.
We believe that technology is an enabler in collaboration, but it shouldn’t be implemented to technology’s sake. It needs to be a solution to a problem, not a replacement for teams to talk to one another – open communication is still key. If your employees are finding that email is hurting their productivity, then it’s time to look for your solution.
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