Fascinating article in today’s Wall Street Journal, A Company Without Email? Not So Fast. The article features companies that have tried to do their work without email and addresses how hard it has been to accomplish that goal. But what really got my attention was this:
Email usage is “exploding,” said Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, who has studied how workers interact with the technology. Not only are workers wading through ever more clogged in-boxes, they’re also checking frequently, an average of 74 times a day, according to coming research from Prof. Mark.
Seventy-four times a day? Wow. That seems like an enormous waste, not just from the inefficiency of the disruption itself, but also from the time needed to get back on task at the same point as before the interruption.
And it seems so unnecessary. Think about this from the standpoint of the litigation world. Someone sends an email about a case. Is it time sensitive? Probably not, meaning the disruption at that moment is a subtraction from value, not a value add. What if non-critical emails went instead to a discussion forum about the case, where you could review all of the updates (they aren’t emails anymore) at a given time, when it is convenient for you instead of at the whim of the sender? I believe this kind of discussion forum approach would be a hugely positive thing from a quality and efficiency standpoint.
Is there more? Seems like it.
A 2012 study from Prof. Mark and several colleagues found that workers who were cut off from their email focused for longer periods of time, switching screens less frequently, and were less stressed, as measured by heart-rate monitors.
I have said before that I think email has a limited shelf-life. My teenage kids simply ignore email. If it isn’t part of their world, the odds are that the world will change to their way of thinking, perhaps only eventually. Eventually, but certainly.
If anyone has any products or ideas to share to help businesses move away from email, please share them.