Many professionals have a “can’t live with it, can’t live without it” relationship with email. But some employees are ready to consign email to the past. In a Unify survey that was released in March and included 9,000 workers from the United States, U.K., and Germany, 28 percent said that email was the tool they'd most like to see removed from the workplace.
Why? According to the survey, employees said it was inefficient and distracting and that it took too much time to deal with; they said that there are more modern ways of communicating. But with email so ingrained in the workplace, could businesses really live without it?
Certainly, few employers could completely eliminate email overnight. But they can use alternative, more efficient ways of communicating that could allow them to eventually phase out email. Here are a few to start with:
1. Internal social networks
The majority of companies rely on email to communicate, yet 50 percent of those surveyed in TheEMPLOYEEapp’s Mobile Trends in the Workplace survey published in June 2015 said they felt left out of the loop.
What’s more, 30 percent of respondents in the same study said they ignored emails from their employers. Emails, then, aren’t grabbing employees’ attention anymore, and messages are getting lost in their inboxes.
While everyone is paying email less attention, social media is now taking center stage. It’s become a major means for people to stay up to date on the lives of their friends, family, favorite brands and celebrities. Employers have a huge opportunity to use social media to their advantage, but only 8 percent of those surveyed by TheEMPLOYEEapp are already doing so.
In fact, internal social networks can bring the engagement back to communications and help employees feel more involved. Instead of sending that company-wide email on some policy update, post a quick status on the internal social network. Recognize achievements by tagging top employees, and allow coworkers to comment and congratulate their teammates. Create online groups where teams can collaborate and share ideas, pictures and videos instead of those boring progress-update emails.
The possibilities are endless. Internal social networks can keep everyone in the loop with more accessible and engaging messages.
2. Chat apps
Employees are no longer bound to the office. More and more of them work from remote locations, either part- or full-time. And for these employees, email isn’t enough.
In fact, 55 percent of virtual workers surveyed by Interact in 2015 said their bosses communicated with them almost exclusively by email, yet 69 percent said the level of communication that could actually keep them engaged in their work was lacking. What’s more, 50 percent said they felt disconnected from their colleagues.
Email isn’t enough to keep remote workers engaged and feeling like part of the team. They need a more immediate form of communication to feel connected and get the information they need to complete their work. Chat apps can fill this need.
Instead of taking the time to draft an email and then wait for a response, employees using chat apps can check in with their peers or manager in seconds, no matter where they are. Consider that a survey conducted in March by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that workers who said their employers used mobile technology and communication well described themselves as more productive, creative, and satisfied with their jobs.
The mobile workforce has outgrown email, and employers need to use more mobile forms of communication to keep up.
3. Feedback platforms
Team managers typically dish out feedback to their employees, but they aren’t used to getting it in return. Why? Because there’s no easy way for employees to give their two cents.
Employees aren’t going to stop what they’re doing and send an email full of their thoughts, opinions and ideas. That would be a waste of time. But with a web-based platform to share feedback with managers, said 70 percent of those surveyed by 15Five in March 2015, they would be more likely to speak up about how they felt.
Already, tools like Happy Mood Score regularly survey employees, asking for their feedback. That way, employees can share what they think without feeling that their thoughts are out of context or a waste of time. In addition, the platform has a space for employees to share their ideas and allows peers to comment.
Instead of searching for the right person to send an email to with an idea or suggestion, platforms that enable employee feedback make it easy for everyone to give their input and feel involved in the company.
5. Face-to-face interaction
Why fix what isn’t broken? Through the emergence of digital distractions, the simple, yet effective art of face-to-face communication has started to disappear. There’s no back-and-forth email chain, and messages aren’t lost in translation, or sent to the wrong person. Although face to face may seem old school, it's the most direct and effective way to communicate.
So, encourage everyone from managers to employees to adopt a face-first policy -- that should happen whenever possible. With more direct communication, our dependence on workplace email will start to fade, making the office a happier and more productive place for everyone.