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Have you ever looked at an email and thought ‘what the hell does that mean?’ Or received a reply from a colleague who completely misunderstood what you had written in the previous email? On top of this, you receive more than 10, maybe 20 emails in your working day, increasing stress and reducing your productivity. You’re not alone in this, as studies show that decreasing interaction with email can lead to less stress and greater productivity. Email, though, is the backbone of most modern businesses, especially large, international businesses where communication needs to pass quickly and easily between silos both in-country and out. So can a business survive without email? And would moving to an alternative service just present more problems?

Culture or necessity?

It’s fair to say that a service we use every day for both our work and personal could be described as a necessity, and there is little research disputing we should boycott email communication altogether, on the contrary, in the short term this could lead to hazardous communication breakdown. The key to reducing email use is to fight office email culture.

In 2012, The Guardian reported that UK company Halton Housing Trust was eliminating internal emails, citing that 40% of an employee’s working week is spent dealing with strings of internal emails that add little or no value to the business. As deputy national editor of The New York Times, Adam Bryant, reveals below, the problem with email is that it has evolved into a tool for misunderstanding. Email communication in its various forms is generally open to communication; a message that is perfectly clear to you may appear multifaceted to your intended receiver, leading to strings of emails attempting to decipher the original intended message. Any communication issues are made worse still if you are dealing with colleagues who lack the ever infamous ‘email etiquette’, which is often not taught and is more of an experience-related skill.

Another issue is latency. Emails can be buried when an employee receives multiple messages per day, leading to a delay in actionable tasks. In response to this, some companies have adopted instant messaging and social networking software to connect their departments and produce swifter comms systems, where communication breakdown can be quickly remedied. When, your messaging is instant, however, and you’re expected to respond instantly, this could increase stress even further.

Email dieting

A study conducted by academics from the University of British Columbia concluded that limited use of email throughout the leads to less stress and more productivity. Tactics such as turning notifications off give employees a respite from the dread of yet another email adding to their workload. When this is combined with strictly curbing the use of internal emails in the office, a business can benefit from a more productive and happier staff.

What can you do?

Your control is internal. No one can stop external emails and who would want to? Often external emails are your most productive, originating from customers, suppliers or potential partners. You can, however, exercise some internal control over your actions when receiving a high number of internal emails.

  • Don’t understand? Walk down the hall and talk it through with your colleague. This way you can forge a better connection with the person and discuss the issue in full.
  • Having to write a short story to get the point across? Arrange a phone call or a skype meeting. Sending an email puts the problem on the backburner and increases your workload. Complete the task now and fully understand what’s required.
  • Where possible, use emails for summary or ‘next steps’, rather than explaining a complex process that would be better addressed over the phone.

Enjoy this video with Adam Bryant, courtesy of Bigthink.com 

The blog above was created using insights from our online BA Management and Leadership degree, as well as various online sources cited above. If you are interested in learning more about our online BA Management and Leadership or BA Management and Professional Accounting degree, you can fill out our online enquiry form or call us on 08081 789 636 (charges apply for international calls).



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