The limited confines of email have been thoroughly tested as small businesses have discovered new ways of moving work forward in the modern workplace. Email’s lack of speed, transparency and collaboration have proven stifling and inefficient—especially when new tools allow small businesses to do more with what they already have. Many small businesses have turned to Slack to help them unlock greater productivity, and they have continued this new way of working whether their teams are fully remote, back in the office or favor a hybrid model that merges the two.
New research by OnePoll and Slack shows that the average employee still spends more than an entire working day per week drafting emails that few recipients read. The survey of small-business employees in the United States and Britain revealed that respondents draft an average of 112 emails a week, spending just over five-and-a-half minutes on each.
“When we look at the data, we’re seeing that employees are spending almost 11 hours a week writing emails, many of which aren’t even getting read—and when they are, they’re often skimmed too quickly and misunderstood,” says Ali Rayl, Slack’s SVP of product management. “It’s an outdated, inefficient form of communication that isn’t keeping up with the way we collaborate today. Companies that adopt more efficient ways for their employees to communicate are freeing up time for more productive, meaningful work.”
Let’s dig into why email is so frustrating—and how small businesses can take a new approach to productivity that centralizes information, empowers their people to work more efficiently and connect with everyone, no matter where they are or how they work.
Unanswered, unacknowledged and misunderstood
The workers in our survey were reasonably fed up with the status quo, and here’s why: They said the emails they send are only fully read and understood by the recipients 36% of the time. And even when they do get responses:
- 62% say it’s common to not get their questions answered
- 51% are addressed by the wrong name
- 49% are asked a question they already answered directly in the same email
On the flip side, 57% of our respondents admitted that if an email is “too long”—eight or more sentences—they won’t bother reading the whole thing. In fact, eight times a day, they’ll just delete (or not read) an email based solely on the subject line. Unfortunately, this has caused 45% to miss something important like a deadline or meeting. That’s a lot of missed opportunities just because of one sentence.
Laszlo Korsos, the president and co-founder of the hiring network platform HeadRace, experienced the pitfalls of email firsthand before adopting Slack. When the company first started, it relied on disjointed emails and disparate tools that demanded constant context switching. Now HeadRace harnesses the power of Slack to maximize productivity during the short window of time that its candidates are active in the job market.
“We’re able to personalize every interaction across the lifecycle of employers and recruiters in a timely way on Slack,” says Korsos. “We don’t waste time drafting up emails that may or may not be read by external partners. Instead we’re bringing everyone and everything into one place, where we’re already working internally, to align faster on goals, and lower the cost of recruiting. Getting rid of antiquated communication and embracing the future of work is how HeadRace is fundamentally transforming recruiting.”
Get your point across in real time
Anyone who’s ever sent or received an unintentionally curt email knows how quickly they can be misinterpreted and lead to discomfort and confusion. Nearly half of our respondents say it’s easy to misconstrue tone over email, and that there’s an underlying expectation that they need to keep things “formal.” This expectation is a challenge, especially for younger generations, according to 57% of Gen Zers and 46% of millennials.
By relying less on email and more on quick chats over Slack, real-time huddles and async video clips, employees no longer feel the need to stay strictly formal at the expense of productivity. Instead, they’re tweaking the ways they communicate with one another to get work done at the office, from home or wherever they work. Emoji are also a nice way to not only communicate efficiently, but build relationships and camaraderie, while having a little fun at work.
“When we integrate our workplace—the way we communicate and the tools we use to get work done, which increasingly includes AI—we foster deeper connection, quicker communication, greater clarity through shared context, and overall, we waste less time. Information can’t fall through the cracks when there’s one single place where everyone in a company can go to find information.”
A better, more productive way forward
More than half of respondents believe that their company relies on email because it’s the way things have always been done. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only way. In fact, 46% believe that using email means their company is lagging behind with technology, and half would like their company to move from email to other forms of communication.
That comes as no surprise, considering 57% of the survey respondents feel bogged down at work because of menial tasks, the top three of which are:
- Filtering irrelevant emails (51%)
- Responding to emails (47%)
- Finding internal information they need to do their jobs (38%)
With email-related tasks coming first and second, it’s only natural that 36% of small-business employees said that their productivity would be positively affected if their company relied less on email. And 42% believe AI tools will increase their productivity: Receiving immediate answers was seen by respondents as the top appeal for AI (50%), followed by staying competitive with other companies (47%), and replacing manual and repetitive tasks (47%).
We couldn’t agree more. One of the most powerful tools on Slack is Workflow Builder, which allows you to turn routine meetings and tasks like standups, approvals and requests into automated workflows. Relieved of sending emails and tending to manual tasks, teams are able to increase their productivity and really focus on the work that matters.
Just take Modern Animal, a small business offering a new kind of veterinary experience, using Slack workflows to triage urgent prescription requests, facilitate onboarding, and share team shoutouts and recognitions.
From your calendar and email to the tools you use every day, you can also integrate over 2,600 apps right into Slack. Not only does this help you avoid tedious context switching, it streamlines processes even further. HeadRace supercharges its tech stack by integrating Figma, Asana, Datadog, GitHub and Sentry directly into Slack. Hello, productivity boost.
This random double-opt-in survey of 8,000 respondents was commissioned by Slack between August 11 and 31, 2023. It was distributed among a mix of in-office, hybrid, and remote workers who send/receive emails as part of a small business of fewer than 200 employees. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).