The death of email, used in business communication since 1971, has been predicted for years. But as Mark Twain once said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” According to a 2019 report by Forbes, an estimated 281 billion emails are sent per day. So is email dead? Not quite. But it is changing as new communication tools come online. Let’s dive into the current state of email in the workplace and other tools you might want to consider using.
Pros and cons of email for business communication
Email continues to have its place in the modern office. Whether you’re asking for progress reports from a team of remote workers or sending a monthly update from the CEO, sometimes a quick email is the right solution. But email also has its limitations. Consider these pros and cons.
- Acceptance. Is there anyone in the workforce today who doesn’t know how to use email? It’s been a top communication tool for decades, and most workers accept it as part of the job.
- Reach and accessibility. Whether you dole out company email addresses or ask workers to use their own, you don’t have to worry about training employees on new tools. You can send a mass email to everyone in the company with just a few clicks and expect them to know how to open it.
- Documentation. Email is an excellent tool for documenting conversations. From meeting minutes to policies and procedures, email creates a chain of documentation for every conversation.
- Targeted communication. Email makes it easy to choose both your message and your target audience. If you want to discuss something specific without the conversation going off course, or you want to loop in only specific team members, email can be an excellent choice.
- Crowded inbox. One of the biggest downsides to email is an overloaded inbox. Few people have the time or energy to completely clear their email box every day, leading to digital overload. Sometimes it’s easier to ignore email altogether.
- Lots of spam. Much of what’s clogging up modern inboxes is spam and other irrelevant content. This can make it tough to tell at a glance whether a critical message is buried in the clutter.
- Constant distraction. On the flip side, some people develop a nearly compulsive habit of checking their email frequently throughout the day. This can make it hard to focus on other things.
- Productivity killer. Ultimately, email can have a negative effect on worker productivity. Checking and responding to email eats up a third of the average employee’s day, and an estimated 30% of those emails aren’t even urgent.
- Creates misunderstandings. The lack of context or tone means email isn’t always the best choice for sensitive communication. This can make even simple messages onerous, as you need to back up and clarify intention before responding.
Changing attitudes about email
Worker attitudes about email are starting to change, and employers will need to adapt. According to an Email Insider study, just 36% of Gen Z feel that email is essential for communicating with their coworkers. It could be that these youngest employees are in entry-level, customer-facing jobs with little need for email, and that they might find it more important as they climb the career ladder. But Gen Z has grown up with innumerable communication tools, from texting to instant messaging, and might never rely on email as much as their older counterparts.
Other business tools for collaboration and communication
While email is likely here to stay, be careful not to develop an over-reliance on it. There are so many more efficient ways to collaborate and communicate, and smart companies will choose a mix of tools. These include but are not limited to:
- Slack. Slack helps you organize ongoing communications by moving them from messy email chains to streamlined, dedicated channels. For those times when email is best, you can import your email right into Slack.
- Other tools. Zoom, MS Teams, Google Suite … there are options for everything from video conferencing to file sharing. What’s even better is that integrating these tools with Slack is easy.
- Phone. Don’t forget the power of an old-fashioned phone call. Not everyone enjoys communicating this way, but it can be a great choice for quickly clarifying messages that could take a lot of back-and-forth in written form.
- Face to face. Whether in person or over video, face-to-face communication is the only way to bring body language into the conversation, and it’s especially effective for sensitive or complex topics.
Putting it all together
Collaboration is a key element in today’s workplace, and email alone isn’t enough. Slack provides a highly customizable platform in which you can move ongoing conversations to dedicated channels while integrating a wide range of collaboration tools. Choosing the right form of communication for each project boosts productivity while keeping your employees engaged.
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