Want to hear something sort of crazy, it appears Atos a large IT services firm located in Europe, is doing away with its internal e-mail. As their CEO, Thierry Breton says that only 15 percent of the 200 e-mails his staff receives on average are valuable. Ok, if they are only getting 200 mails they are sand bagging because that “ain’t nothing” in the real world. Thierry also goes on to say that his staff is wasting somewhere between 5 and 20 hours a week handling e-mail. Ok, that sounds like those figures surely have some statistical backing behind them (not).
So what does he plan to use Instead of e-mail, as no its not tin foil hats as he wants his staff to use instant messaging and other chat-like communications media. As Breton himself openly claims not to have sent a work e-mail for three years. He believes and has been vocal in saying that if staffs want to communicate with him they can visit his office, call, or send a text message. As to quote the 56-year-old CEO he says, “e-mails cannot replace the spoken word.” Well can it is a good question as the spoken word does carry tone which an email doesn’t, however neither does instant messaging either so where is the logic?
Also talk about an interruption based mean of messaging, so the phone rings you have to stop everything to answer and if you don’t the colleagues with the question or reply must personally queue and hope to remember at a later time to retry their attempt at communication and if this isn’t a recipe for delay and disaster, not sure what is.
On top of this, even with a switch away from e-mail for internal communication may be one thing however, communication outside the company will still use e-mail, therefore staff will still have to do e-mail and still be vulnerable to e-mail-based interruptions. So again, I seem to be missing the logic here.
Then there is also solid research (unlike Breton guess-statistics above) which suggests that instant messaging (which I personally find more disruptive then mail) and phone calls are just as disruptive to personal productivity as e-mail. As one has to ask if the problem is really e-mail; as the true issue if I were betting man is that eighty-five percent of Atos’ internal mail maybe worthless. In fact this is somewhat normal as there is a lot of research which says our “normal” communication is filled with “noise”. So the act of ditching internal mail won’t mean that employees will be more productive in communication. It simply means they find other ways, to fill time with unproductive communications. As switching from one form of evil (as in interruption) to yet another mode won’t solve the problem.
Oh and Breton 200 mails, and his decision to abandon internal e-mail might be easier than for most. As want do you want to bet that Breton has an admin…