There’s no doubt that email has become an invaluable tool for communication and collaboration in the workplace. However, writing for Forbes.com, Jacob Morgan warns that it has its limitations and the widespread reach of email is both its greatest strength and its biggest weakness.
To reinforce his argument, Morgan highlights five ways that email is having a detrimental effect on the lives of employees all over the world:
1) Too much email. Morgan points out that, according to research, approximately 90 billion business emails are sent every day. What’s more, we spend between 25% and 50% of our working day using email and 39% of users regularly check, send and receive emails outside of working hours. According to the author, it takes employees approximately 16 minutes to refocus on their tasks after dealing with email.
2) Forwarded conversations. Employees often receive long threaded email conversations as a way of “looping them in”, meaning they have to spend unnecessary time deciphering all the useful and relevant information.
3) Expectation of a rapid response. In the early days of email, says Morgan, it was used for “asynchronous communication” – you would send an email and a response might not be expected for several days. However, nowadays, almost instantaneous response is expected, with mobile devices used for almost constant checking of email.
4) Used for everything. Think of all the uses of email in the workplace: sharing documents, inviting employees to events and meetings, sending meeting notes, asking questions – even those requiring a one-word answer. The situation is “out of control”.
However, Morgan insists that only around one in three emails sent is actually essential for work.
5) Email as the company therapist. Morgan comments: “You ever get those emails from someone only to find that what you’re reading sounds like it should be contained in a personal diary of the person who sent it? Oftentimes employees can send out verbose emails with scattered ideas that colleagues are expected to read just to find that one piece of relevant information that they need.”