Do you cringe in the morning while your computer boots up – anticipating the onslaught of emails that demand your immediate attention? Or maybe you’re a late night replier – too tired to think – but trying to clear your inbox so you can sleep like the rest of the world. Could a world without emails exist?
One company has received press for attempting just that – a ban on interoffice emails. Atos, a French business technology company, implemented a “zero email” policy to end internal emails within 18-24 months. Atos declared its “aim is to eradicate all emails between Atos employees by using improved communication applications as well as new collaboration and social media tools.” Describing the volume of emails sent and received amongst its 74,000 employees as “unsustainable”, Thierry Breton, chairman and chief executive officer, plans on forcing Atos’s workforce to communicate via instant messaging tools, online chat systems or wiki-like documents that can be modified by multiple users.
“We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives,” Breton declared in a corporate statement. “At Atos we are taking action now to reverse this trend, just as organizations took measures to reduce environmental pollution after the industrial revolution.”
Breton estimates that only 10% of the 200 messages Atos employees receive daily are useful, and at least 18% are spam. Furthermore, Atos managers spend between 5 and 20 hours a week just reading and writing emails. Therefore, Atos is “encouraging the use of tools such as Office Communicator and has set up social community platforms to share and keep track of ideas on subjects from innovation and Lean Management through sales.”
Caroline Crouch, Atos spokeswoman, reported to ABC News, Tech Firm Implements Employee ‘Zero Email’ Policy, that Atos has already reduced internal emails by 20% within six months. According to CNN Tech, Tech firm wants to ban office e-mail, trends may prove Atos right. CNN reports that “recent surveys have found e-mail use declining rapidly among younger people who prefer faster, less formal means of communication such as texting or instant messaging on Facebook or Twitter.”
Do you still delight, as Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan did so long ago, in hearing the ping of “You’ve got mail”? Many do not, including Atos’s CEO, Breton. He recently told the Wall Street Journal, The IT Boss Who Shuns Email, that he has not sent a work email in three years. “If people want to talk to me, they can come and visit me, call or send a text message.” Breton said. “Emails cannot replace the spoken word.” Now that is something to talk about – no pun intended.
I wholly endorse the perhaps old-fashioned idea that we all should personally interact with co-workers on a more regular basis. I also agree that interoffice emails clog up my email box, which I am always trying to clean out. I also admit that I often email co-author Norah Olson Bluvshtein – she is only three offices away – rather than picking up the phone or, heaven forbid, getting up from my chair and walking to her office. Yet, when I do, we often solve the issue within that discussion instead of an email thread six pages long. (I once had over 200 emails from Norah in my inbox…) I think I will make in-person communication with my colleagues one of my new year’s resolutions.
That said, I don’t know that instant messaging or texting with co-workers will make me any more efficient, nor will it solve the “clutter” phenomenon. Instead, it may just be one more place that I have to look to make sure that I have responded to everyone trying to connect with me. I welcome your input though as I am always striving to find efficiencies in my workday!
As we look to the new year, will you try to remove some of the clutter in your life? When was the last time you evaluated your Company’s policy on internal emails, if ever? Is there a better way to communicate company-wide messages and/or communicate with your colleagues? Is excessive email communication polluting your work environment and making you less efficient?