Is it Time to Ditch Email For Good?
I find it an absolute privilege to work with a wide variety of companies. All at different stages of development learning from them. In fact, learning new ways of doing things in business is one of the most valuable things I can pass onto you.
So, when I came across a business that had decided to ditch email addresses for the top four directors in the business, I was intrigued.
A small to medium sized enterprise (SME) thrives on speed of response and ability to adapt. So you would think that having their top line directors permanently connected to the rest of the business was a sure-fire way to keep things moving.
This particular business realised the opposite was happening. Their progress was being slowed down by people ‘waiting’ for a response to an email. The directors are busy people and aren’t always attached to their smart phones or lap tops, so getting decisions quickly was proving to be a problem.
No one was talking to each other
The business also realised something else. Despite being relatively small (around 30 staff), no one was talking to anyone else. Emails were flying backwards and forwards, but no one was actually talking. This was causing problems around a misunderstanding, lack of cohesion and a general feeling of disconnect, particularly in relation to the senior team.
The directors took the bold step of removing their email addresses from their business cards and from the internal communication process. They can only be contacted by phone or face to face. Some senior leaders may well be holding their hands up in horror at this point saying, “that would lead to chaos, how can I possibly answer my phone all day and ditch my email for good?”
Will the experiment work?
These particular directors chose to pool resources and employ a full-time executive assistant who answers all the calls and books people into their diary to see them. Their doors are open to the office and people can and do just pop in for a quick chat. When they want some peace and quiet, they simply shut their door. The people in the office know they cannot disturb them for the time being.
Suppliers and customers who want to contact them, go through their EA (Executive Assistant) and set up calls or meetings and in a very old fashioned way, get put through to the relevant director if the EA deems the call important enough.
Ditching their email is an experiment at the moment. But if it works, the business intends to roll this out to the rest of the business. Thus, making it compulsory for people to stand up, walk across the office and speak to their colleagues. For the sales team or customer-facing people, their emails will remain in place so that the outside world can still contact them at will.
Is it time to ditch email for good?
Are we about to return to the telephone and ditch email for good? Or, are we indeed about to return to talking to people face to face?
I am aware of a large business that doesn’t have phones on anyone’s desk and they rely entirely on Slack to communicate. I can’t help but feel that this must lead to a great deal of misunderstanding, and miscommunication. Perhaps a lack of cohesion in the working environment.
I’m observing what happens with my client closely. I’m intrigued to see what happens when a business returns to pre-email methods of communication.
How is your business communicating now?
If your business is running a similar experiment, I’d love to hear from you. To find out whether it worked or whether you returned to emailing each other.
Email is here to stay, but is it time to re-introduce some basic human communication in our modern world? I’m not sure ditching email for good would work in reality.
UPDATE: During the Coronavirus crisis, businesses have returned to email. Many have taken to video conferencing to replace face to face meetings. It’s arguably more important than ever. In these times of social isolation, pick up the phone and talk to your colleagues.