Social Business challenge: how much time do we waste on email?

Something that has been hot on my radar at the moment for a number of reasons is the efficiency of communication and how inefficient email can be! The amount of wasting man hours we lose to checking emails, most of which we don’t even really need to read is phenomenal. In an age of social media and mobile technology we have some much already fighting for our attention – how is another CC or FYI email helping us to focus our attention?

Recent studies have shown that our average attention span is 8 seconds, 1 seconds less than a goldfish! I have also come across a range of stats outlining the average number of business related emails received per day – the most recent article quotes 140 – I am sure many of you reading this would scoff at such a statistic! A great little Prezi from Unify outlines nicely the impact of email among other distractions and inefficiencies that affect the working day:

But how do we tackle this? There are a number of fantastic technology products on the market with social collaboration at its heart for starters. Unify product Circuit is one such tool that has caught the eye of late – particularly as a result of their smart use of ‘consumer style’ B2B marketing efforts. Check out these cheeky little videos highlighting some of the most common workplace #emailfails

But as I wrote in my previous article on People, Process & People – technology is not solely the answer when trying to drive through huge behavioural change. There are some fantastic little wins in enforcing some day-to-day rules that reduce the focus on email and encourage fully engaged, pro-active collaboration (and a bit of old school human interaction). Here are some ideas:

  1. Set targets around phone based interaction and encourage employees to revert to the phone rather than sending long emails.
  2. Ban internal emails between neighbouring colleagues and encourage more “at desk” chats to solve solutions.
  3. Set proper meeting agendas (well in advance) so that it is clear what is covered in the meeting, the objectives and where you can add value. This will encourage only those that are required and can add value to a meeting or conference call to attend and not waste time.
  4. Phone ban in meetings. No one likes someone who switches to their phone half way through a meeting.
  5. Limit conference call participants. Too many it just becomes a bit of a nightmare. Sometimes it is necessary, often it is not, revert to point 3.
  6. Encourage video conferencing, it is harder to cheat being engaged on a conference call if people can see you are not paying attention!

It would be interesting to get your thoughts on how you are using social collaboration in your organisations and diverting away from email – let’s hear some stories! Do you share the view that email is largely counterproductive and results in countless wasted hours? Is it the default and should it be?

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