According to a recent McKinsey report, today’s workforce spends 61% of their time managing work, rather than actually doing it.
Does that strike a chord? It did for me, even though my job as a people manager is to deal with and eliminate bureaucracy so my team can focus on achieving their goals. But I hear the lament over and over that others are drowning in administrative tasks, battling red tape and knee-deep in paperwork (online demands included). Today, the biggest complaint seems to revolve around the overwhelming email bog.
I’ve heard of companies creating ’email-free’ days where all internal business must happen over the telephone or gasp! in person. Other companies have turned to solutions like Yammer External Groups for patient communication, Microsoft Teams for internal office communication and document sharing, Slack and other instant messaging software to stem the flow. According to a recent TELUS report, tools like these ones can reduce email volume by as much as 40%.
Most companies at the very least publish email policy or etiquette guidelines for staff. I’ve been amused recently by a number of articles listing the major pet peeves of email users; here are some favourites:
- Not entering a Subject line – making the email impossible to find later
- Replying to an email and changing the topic completely – usually best to start a new email but at least add a word or a phrase to the end of the existing Subject line to inform readers of the change
- Threadjacking – changing a Subject line to start a new conversation – please start a new email!
- Using non-embedded logos and other graphics in a signature that come through as attachments, or little red exes
- Intricate fonts, different coloured fonts, emoji overkill, SMS shorthand, excessive punctuation!!!!! None of these belong in business emails
- PEOPLE WHO SHOUT AT ME
- Messages that go on and on and say little or nothing
- Messages that are so short they actually say nothing
- People who can’t seem to master a professional tone; their writing is either far too casual or unnecessarily stiff
- Those who mark everything urgent. Wolf-cryers
- Asking for proof of receipt (unless it’s a summons, it’s insulting)
- Replying to all when not warrented, cc’ing without approval, bcc’ing…
I wonder how much more work could get done in a day if email management took even half the time it currently does for most. If we effectively put to use the tools, technologies, approaches, and best practices that have been developed to reduce emails in the first place, we’d all be doing ourselves a favour. It’s worth the experiment.