Can You Live Without email?

Posted on February 5, 2014.

Back in November of 2011, Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos, a French IT company, launched an initiative to eliminate emails by 2014.  Since I wrote about it back in July, I thought I’d check in to see how it was working.

Besides the wasted productivity that Mr. Breton witnessed, our obsession with email is actually unhealthy. It should come as no surprise that people that check their work emails after 9 PM were “more tired and less engaged the following day on the job”.  Plus, if you have millennial aged children or grandchildren, you know that they only check their email if you text them and let them know you’ve sent something. So as this generation continues to take over the workplace, it might be wise to contemplate some alternatives.

But I digress, how is Mr. Breton doing with his ban and is he setting an example for the rest of us? Well, according to the Financial Times, it's succeeding! I’ll admit that it helps that Atos is an IT company, but many of their initiatives can be implemented across industries. So here are a couple of their ideas I think could work for almost everyone:

·      Use text and IM to get the message to a more targeted audience. Is there anything more annoying than being copied on an email that is just “nice to know” information.  You aren’t being asked to do anything, follow up on anyone else and the information isn’t critical. Using text and IM would eliminate all the unnecessary “cc’s”.

·      Use an enterprise social network. Atos needed to find a way for groups to collaborate and share ideas without a steady stream of emails, so they created bluekiwi, a software system that connects people within a company. I haven’t used it but it looks a lot like Google “hangouts” but with more firewalls and more detailed features.  It’s so successful that they now sell it to other companies.

·      Create a portal for all those Power Points and Training Videos.  People are increasingly used to viewing movies and TV on their own time. Look at the explosion of binge watching and on demand. So why are you still sending this information via an email with a link?  Create a You Tube-like portal on your intranet and house all the information there. If there’s a deadline for completing a course, make sure it clearly labeled on the site. If your intranet is your home page, every employee will see it every day so there’s no need to send those annoying email reminders.

·      Improve your spam filters.  For most large organizations, you probably already have filters that remove even friendly emails.  But for many small and middle market companies, spam continues to be a problem. At Atos, 18% of their emails were spam.  This is a quick and relatively inexpensive fix to help cut down on the traffic.

The Financial Times article mentioned a few other great ideas for cutting down on the traffic and mentioned several large companies that have started storing emails on the server after hours. I’m not sure Atos will be able to move to a 100% email free environment, but taking just a few of these steps should help reduce your inbox and you can use the extra time to watch your productivity skyrocket.