23% of the average employee’s workday is taken by email
3.3 billion people on the planet have an email account
144.8 billion emails are sent daily
64 seconds is the average time that takes to get back to work after checking a new message
If this is not clear enough, maybe this infographic can help you realise how many emails we send and receive:
Are emails the new form of time pollution? Not only that emails are distracting us from our work, they are also making it hard for us to go back to work. That is why some CEOs decided to ban emails.
What happens after you ban emails in your company?
A few years ago, Thierry Breton, CEO of the France-based information technology services company Atos Origin noticed that his employees are constantly distracted by the emails they are receiving every day. In 2011, Thierry announced that he plans to make Atos a “zero-email” company in three years.
“We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives,” said Breton said in a public statement on Atos’s website.
Thierry himself was applying “zero-email” philosophy for nearly 5 years before he decided to bring it to Atos because he realised it had a negative effect on his productivity.
This may come as a surprise, but Atos has over 70,000 people in more than 40 offices around the world. Naturally, banning electronic communication was a process that included building a social network for the entire company. Atos organised the network around 7,500 open communities that represented various projects that required internal collaboration. Unlike email, these conversations didn’t interrupt employees with constant pinging. Instead, employees could choose to enter the discussion on their terms and schedules.
Atos is still not a “zero-email” company, but the reduction efforts are already visible. The company reduced overall email by 60%. Its operating margin increased from 6.5% to 7.5% in 2013. Earnings per share rose by more than 50% and administrative costs declined from 13% to 10%.
Atos is not the only company that is working on cutting email. Halton Housing Trust, a UK-based housing nonprofit company that manages thousands of homes has also cut email. The company’s CEO Nick Atkin wrote in a company blog post that it is challenging to get his 280 employees to stop constantly checking their email which “further proves the point about how people are addicted to email and as such have an irrational response when this is about to be taken away from them,” BBC reports.
Besides company strategies, there are even tools that can be used to replace emails, as a New York Times columnist reports.
More Emails = More Stress
According to the researchers from the University of California, Irvine and the U.S. Army, limiting or banning emails can dramatically increase individual productivity and reduce stress. The researchers cut off email usage for thirteen civilian office workers and measured the effects on productivity and stress.
As Harvard Business Review reports, “The researchers first took participants through a three-day baseline period in which they were interviewed and observed both visually and with computer monitoring software (to see how which programs they used, how often, and how much their work was interrupted). They even measured the participants’ heart rates (as a proxy for stress levels). Then they pulled the plug on email, installing a filter on the participants’ email program—which would file away all incoming messages for later reading and remove all notifications.”
The “no-email” condition lasted for five days, and researchers continued to observe the participants, measure their heart rates and track their computer usage. The results were interesting: participants began to communicate face-to-face and over telephone more often. They were also spending more time in each computer program they used, which leads to the conclusion that they were less distracted. When it comes to their heart rates, participants experienced significantly less stress when blocked from email. They even reported feeling more relaxed, focused and productive.