Digital death: Should you be giving up email?

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Matt O’Hara, CEO of Oak Flats Bowling Club and the Illawarra Yacht Club, has given up on his work email and convinced his employees to do the same, with a shift back to phone calls and face-to-face conversations. Since the switch, his working life has improved greatly, News Ltd reported.

O’Hara stated that he used to spend 25 hours a week dealing with emails, and he has reduced that to 45 minutes a fortnight. He feels most of the emailing he was doing was not necessary, and he could have been more productive.

"You just think you're doing business ... but I found that two-thirds of my inbox came from three people and I shared an office block with all of them,” he stated.

With emails taken out of the equation, O’Hara’s staff spent more time dealing with customers, and were also more likely to go home on time, something he finds very important.

"At the end of the day, we don't sit on our death bed and say: 'I should have spent more time at the office',” he explained. Leaving work on time every day means O’Hara is able to spend more time with his family, which he values greatly.

For productivity, the dropping of emails forced employees to make phone calls instead – with five minute chats replaced hour-long back-and-forths.

For many, emails in the workplace seems like a given, but abstaining from them isn’t as uncommon as you might think. Bud Selig, commissioner of Major League Baseball, previously stated he has never sent an email, and doesn’t plan on ever doing so.

Selig is joined by a number of other high-ranking CEOs, News Ltd reported.

Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos, banned emails in the workplace in 2011, stating that they were unable to “replace the spoken word”.

While this trend of abstaining from email might not spell the end of the communication platform, a definite shift towards alternate means of electronic communication is on its way. A study from Gartner predicted that 2015 will see 30% of organisations use ‘collaboration platforms’ the same way email is used today.

Collaboration platforms include a plethora of intranet-based tools, although in terms of replacing email, refer more closely to corporate-oriented instant-messaging networks, which often also incorporate elements of social media networks and profiles

“Social is the next evolution of communication and collaboration and what comes next after email,” Jay Larson, president of worldwide field operations at Jive, told HC.

“For a white collar employee, 28 hours a week is devoted to doing email, being in meetings or searching for information. Out of that 28 hours half of that was wasted doing things that didn’t add value to the business,” Larson explained. “So, there’s a tremendous opportunity to drive productivity and to give people a set of tools that not only help them better collaborate but drive efficiency and get their work done in a much better and faster way – and reduce the amount of email usage.”

Jive functions as an amalgamation of many different social media initiatives, including wikis and profiles. The richer data accumulated by employees can then be accessed in a more streamlined way than email.

“Our communication is out loud. It’s in public [sic]. It’s something people can see and most importantly, it’s searchable. So once there is a good document, good answer to a question, good idea, good best practice, all that is searchable … it’s not point to point, it’s out in the open, visible, searchable and reusable,” Larson said.

Moving towards a more community-driven way of sharing information and communicating is something that Larson feels can help foster a greater company culture of collaboration between departments. “Increasingly businesses are driving the engagement with this – it might be HR, it might be comms, it might be sales or marketing, or a business leader driving a change program,” he said.

Do you find yourself spending a lot of time on emails during the working day? Do you think abstaining is the answer?

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