We may be flexible workers now, but why are we still relying so heavily on email?

Becca 2
by Becca McInerney

Ah, the email. What did we ever do without it? Well, we managed of course, but now it is such an integral part of our lives and the way we communicate, that it’s impossible to imagine a time without it.

Globally, we send and receive 124.5 billion business emails per day. Whether we are in the office, on the run with our phones, sitting down checking our emails on iPads in the evening (tut tut) or on the treadmill with an Apple watch, it’s never been so easy to stay in touch.

 With more and more of us working in a shared office space or at home, our reliance on emails is only going to increase. We still need to get things down in writing, or check on the status of something. We even send email reminders to ourselves for when we are next in the office (that one could just be me).

So how is it that email can still drive us so crazy?

 It’s both a blessing and a curse. We may be able to receive vital bits of information throughout the day, but the flip side of this is that you can never switch off and concentrate on work. Hours can sometimes pass and the only thing you’ve done is fight fires inside your inbox, because naturally, people expect a speedy response to their ‘quick note’.

Where’s the productivity in that?

Then there’s the question of what is considered essential information. Often, we work with multiple groups of people, and it’s inevitable that paths will cross. The issue here is that one employee will have to sift through chains of emails, deciphering what is and isn’t for them. Or, they spend disproportionate amounts of time accepting diary invites or deleting emails. It’s incredibly difficult to manage, but if anybody is looking to increase efficiency in an office, this is a good place to start.

For me, tone is one of the biggest issues when it comes to the detrimental side of emails.

We’ve all been there – you get an email from a client, colleague, boss, and the first thing that runs through your head is the fact that they sound annoyed with you. Then comes 10 minutes of planning your reply, worrying about any possible reason, and getting defensive, not necessarily in that order.

Then you speak to them on the phone, and they’re as nice as pie. Nine times out of 10, your suspicions are unfounded, and the sender just hasn’t thought about the perception of their words enough. However, on some occasions you might be unlucky enough to receive an email that is nothing short of rude, passive-aggressive or stress-inducing.

 In these instances, the best course of action is to get straight on the phone, or talk to the person face to face. It’s much quicker, and puts you in a much better (and more mature) position.

 In fact, we all need to be better at communicating verbally, or using things like Skype, at least. Instead of sending email for email’s sake, we need to talk to our colleagues. Not only will this iron out any questions we have about anything at the time (saving three or four emails down the line) but it’ll create a stronger bond within a team, simply because we are interacting with one another. For those of us working at home, the use of tools like Skype, FaceTime or Zoom, can be revolutionary. You still feel like part of the team, and everyone is clear on the meaning behind a task, or piece of constructive feedback.

The main thing is not to use email as a catch-all for our work needs. Sure, use it for the things that work well. Just don’t let it take over every aspect of your working lives. It could just have the opposite effect on improving your communications.

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