How emails damage productivity

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Recently a warning was issued by 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. How many emails do you get every week? What percentage of those need to be answered promptly? How many of those distract you from dedicated tasks you’re working on? Probably more than what is healthy.  

In a round table hosted by Project last spring, it was evident that email still rules the roost when it comes to collaborating in teams. It is not only affecting work in the office, but also disrupts work-life balance. In a research study we have made, we found that 67% of project managers still respond to emails outside of working hours. It also showed that 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 meetings 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; increasingly popular online collaboration tools. Commonly, they are optimized for productivity, allowing people to plan, work on documents, share and assign tasks and communicate – without the need of a single email.

Our suggestion to company’s facing email chaos is to find appropriate ways to train their employees in email chaos management. There are plenty of sources available for your help; from easy planning techniques to collaboration tools. Start by trying the simple ‘reply and delete’ task. Nothing beats a clean inbox. 

If your employees 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 organisations 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 for technology’s sake. It should serve as a solution to a problem, not a replacement for teams to talk to one another – open communication is still key. 

This blog is written and sponsored by Planview.


Posted by Mia Nordborg on 19th Nov 2015

About the Author
Mia Nordborg is Director of Customer Experience for Projectplace at Planview and has been working with the Projectplace product since April 2001. Mia is managing the Customer Experience efforts for the Projectplace product and speaks frequently at different events and webinars about Lean, Agile, Kanban, Change Management and Management techniques.

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