Email – Turning Email Back Into an Effective Communication Tool

Email is arguably the most used communication tool on the planet today. Since it stumbled into the communication landscape its impact has been exponential.

Undoubtedly, email has introduced greater efficiency in communication. It is cheap, fast, convenient, you can reach many people at the same time and at different locations.

Take an isolated country such as Australia. Email helps to offer Australia inclusiveness and competitiveness in the global business market. Time zones and the tyranny of distance become irrelevant or at least minimized when information can be exchanged so quickly and easily.

Given these great advantages, one could assume that communication in the workplace today is more effective than ever before thanks to email. However, is this really the case?

The information overload via email is reaching critical proportions. Employees are starting to turn into mere email processors. It is not uncommon for an employee to receive 150-200 emails a day. This prolific use of email is a key threat to it being an effective communication tool.

How can 200 messages a day be meaningful? How can deal with so many emails, instead of performing the core activities associated with an employee role be productive?

One must dig deeper and ask quite simply 'why is this occurring?' The reasons are many and varied. A large part of it is because email is just so easy and convenient that it has become its own worst enemy! Consider the different types of emails that are sent. There are the types of emails that probably should be replaced by a face to face encounter. We have all been guilty of exchanging 'banter' style emails with a colleague who sits nearby. In effect we are engaging in a silent e-conversation. But why not have a 'real' conversation?

Then there are the emails with attachments that are copied to a long list of people. Do all these people need to know this information? Will they have time to read it? Probably not. Next are the worst kind of emails. This email is the trail following a long issue that has been bandied back and forth between multiple parties. These emails take time and effort to determine what is going on, and what should happen next and also cause ongoing interruptions. This exposes too many people to the decision making process when most people are best involved when the decision has been made. Even if we could just eliminate the above types of emails, a significant decrease in email traffic can be achieved.

In addition, there are some strategies that can be put in place to encourage staff productivity and to facilitate effective communication. One strategy used by several large companies in America is to implement email free days. On email free days, staff are encouraged to use their phone, or to meet with people, and to simply get up from their desk and talk to each other.

The basic premise here is to 'get back to basics'. People need to rediscover basic communication practices. This approach is having a positive effect in companies that have tried it, and they are discovering that people are starting to communicate better even on 'email allowed' days. That is, the lessons learnt by having email free days are having a positive after affect on the other days of the week. The outcome, is decreased email traffic overall, and increased communication effectiveness within the organization.

Email is turning the modern workplace into an inefficient environment, with information overload looming as the greatest threat to effective communication and productivity in recent times. We all need to reconsider our use of email each time we use it, and simply ask ourselves 'am I using the right communication method?'

Source by Suzanne Burke