Towards zero email

Can organisations benefit from a zero-email culture?

In 2015 the average number of business emails sent and received each day per employee was 122 – and this figure is expected to grow

In 2011, the CEO of IT services company Atos Origin concluded that a constant stream of emails was keeping his employees in a constant state of distraction.  He decided he wanted his company to become email free within three years.  He described email as a form of ‘pollution’ that he wanted to take action against, just as organisations had looked to reduce other forms of pollution.

Atos Origin is a tech company with 70,000 people working around the globe.  To replace email the company built an enterprise-wide social network.  Email hasn’t been abolished at Atos, but the company has managed to reduce email traffic by 60% and the average number of employee emails per week has dropped to less than 40.  At the same time, earnings per share have increased and administrative costs have decreased.

Writing in Harvard Business Review David Burkus challenges widely accepted principles of business management and looks for real data that disproves accepted ideas. He also looks for the rewards reaped by organisations that break these rules.  One case study conducted by the US Army and the University of California Irvine looked at how office workers experienced significantly reduced levels of stress when they were cut off from emails.  They also were more productive and conducted more of their engagement face to face.  The participants themselves reported feeling more focused and relaxed.

Which brings us to what to do about work emails whilst on holiday.  Time Management Ninja has some excellent advice:

  • Set expectations – make sure your colleagues know you will be out of the loop – and state quite clearly in your out of office notification that you won’t be responding until a specific date
  • Trust those you leave behind! – Do your best NOT to be indispensable and empower your people
  • Give your boss and direct reports a number for use in emergencies only.

And then – enjoy your holiday and recharge