Growth Customer Experience Productivity Business IQ Trends Success Stories Tech Solutions Subscribe Tech Enquiry
Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

With the growing backlash against one of the workplace's most used and abused communication tools, are we ready to abandon email in the pursuit of greater office productivity?

The modern information worker is drowning in their inbox, and the daily ritual of email triage makes it harder and harder to actually get things done. Bombardments from the dreaded Reply All button have become an internal block on workplace productivity. Email can also perpetuate the 24/7 work ethic that can be detrimental to the health of staff and the business as a whole.

Shadows cascade against an old style letterbox

Time to pull the plug?

The back and forth nature of email started as a blessing. You could reply to messages when it suited you, rather than being interrupted by a telephone call – which requires your immediate attention – or else playing phone tag with people who are never available to take your call.

But for email to survive as a business tool it must be used efficiently, otherwise it makes us busy rather than productive. We engage in long and convoluted email exchanges, which could have been quickly resolved simply by talking to the person in the next cubicle. This problem is made worse by the fact that some people only skim incoming emails, firing off a quick response to the first question while ignoring the rest.

Increasingly, businesses are turning to a combination of tools including business-focused applications and project management tools to help improve the flow of information.

 

What are the alternatives?

Email still has its place, just as we continued to post letters after the invention of the telephone and continued to make phone calls after the arrival of email, SMS and instant messaging. The challenge is knowing which tool is best for the job at hand.

The immediate nature of instant messaging can be a more efficient tool when a quick response is required. When people think of "IM" they think of Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messager and others, but there are business-grade alternatives. There are the usual suspects aimed at big businesses like Microsoft Office Communications Server, Cisco Unified Presence and IBM Lotus Sametime, but also options for small businesses like Slack, HipChat, and Campfire.

Microsoft, Google and Zoho all offer Instant Messaging features, plus their online office suites also let multiple users edit the same document simultaneously and add comments. This can be far more practical than emailing document revisions and struggling with version control. Meanwhile many project management tools like Basecamp, AceProject and Zoho Projects feature communication tools which might serve better than email when discussing specific projects. Training tools like Zunos also have communication and collaboration features.

How do you make email work for your business?

Rather than going cold turkey on email within your business, there are a few guidelines you might introduce to help email work for you rather than against you.

Write concise emails with descriptive subject lines. Get to the point, without being rude, and make it clear exactly what you need from the recipient. If an email becomes too long and complicated it's less likely to be effective, so a phone call or face-to-face conversation might be a more efficient way to resolve the issue.

Keep group emails to a minimum and avoid the Reply All button where possible. If your business is plagued by group emails, consider whether these conversations should be moved to collaboration or project management tools.

Email isn't dying, but it needs to be kept in check so it doesn't choke your business. Small businesses of the future will use email sparingly to ensure that staff spend less time in their inbox and more time on the job.

Looking to make your business more efficient?

Have a look at how Zunos can help kickstart your workflow.

Find out more

glitter banner spelling out happy holidaze
Productivity
Productivity
Make Christmas less stressful with top coping strategies

Are you worried there’ll be more bah humbug and less magic this Christmas? You’re not alone. Read on to see how to stress-proof the silly season.

Christmas corporate gifts waste
Productivity
Productivity
Are business Christmas gifts going to waste?

Environmental conservation groups urge you to re-think your choice of business gifts this year. So, what options other than the stock standard promotional presents can you send...

Image shows a person sitting at a laptop computer and working on a website design.
Growth
Growth
How to get the most out of your content strategy

These digital tools will help you maximise the impact of your content marketing strategies. In the war for attention, the challenge for businesses will be to create content t...

man holding coffee cup looking at tablet
Customer Experience
Customer Experience
SEO 101: 5 things you can do today to grow your online presence

For many, SEO can seem like a foreign concept, better left to tech brands. But there are very real benefits to having a smart site, and easy ways to go about it. Search Engine ...