We send and receive dozens of work-related emails every day. Messages – often ones that are internal communications – crowd our inboxes and our time. But how many of those incoming emails are truly necessary and important? When does the amount of spent reading and responding to colleagues’ emails become counter-productive? These questions have surfaced as companies have begun to explore new ways to improve efficiency and to relieve their employees from daily floods of redundant messages. In this post I will discuss one CEO’s sweeping change to internal communication in his company – plus a few small ways that you can improve email techniques among your own colleagues.
Email has become such an indispensible part of internal communication that it is hard to imagine abandoning it entirely. Yet one CEO has done just that: last month, Thierry Breton, the CEO of Atos, an information technology services company, announced the implementation of a company-wide internal ban to begin this year. This is no small feat, as Atos has 80,000 employees spanning 42 countries.
The announcement caused a stir both within the company and from the media, yet Breton strongly defended his decision during an interview with the BBC in December. He explained that the grounds for the internal email ban was to “enhance the quality of working conditions” for all 80,000 employees, who are regularly swamped with emails. Another concern was for the quality of his company, which was spending “too much time on internal emails and not enough time on management.” In addition, external emails will still be a primary form of communication with clients.
What, then, are the alternatives for efficient internal communication, especially within a company where employees span multiple continents and time zones? Breton cited a range of tools that Atos has begun to incorporate and will continue to implement over the coming months, which Breton himself now uses entirely over internal email. The options include instant messaging, internal social networks (such as Yammer, about which you can read more in an earlier blog post), cloud computing, and micro blogging. Among my favourite options are document sharing sites, which cut out email attachments and provide an online forum where colleagues can post comments and questions about documents.
Most companies are not ready to eliminate internal emails. Even Breton predicts it will be 10 to 15 years before all business adopt such methods. Instead, here are a few suggestions on how to trim down your own emails – and feel free to share them with colleagues!
– Start with a descriptive yet concise subject line. If the subject line clearly states your purpose, it will help you to cut down text in the body of the email.
– Before you “Reply All” or CC others on the email, consider whether all recipients really need to see the email. It takes a while to read through long email chains and is an inefficient use of time if the conversation is not relevant to the recipient.
– If you are about to reply to an email with simple “thanks,” reflect first on whom you are sending it to. Some people appreciate a concluding email of gratitude; others find it unnecessary and a waste of time and space.
– Reread and edit emails before you send them. Work emails should be concise and to the point, and each time you read through you will discover more words to eliminate. This is especially important for emails sent to a mobile device.
If you have a few points to discuss, break down your email into bullet points. This organizes your thoughts in a clear fashion, and your recipient will appreciate reading a few bullet points instead of long-winded paragraphs.