The Email Opportunity for Improving Collaboration

by Tom Reeder

According to an article published by Barry Gill in the June 2013 edition of Harvard Business Review, we spend half our work-year on email.  The statistics are based on Gill’s 2012 survey of 2,600 workers in the US, UK and South Africa who email everyday.

Gill helps us understand where that time goes as he profiles the 50% of our work-year in more detail:

  • 13% Writing emails
  • 15% Reading emails
  • 22% Other email activities (searching, archiving and managing)

Gill articulates the power of the evolving email for the searchable archive, the manager’s accountability source, and the document courier while discounting the “digital hipsters”.  However, today we can hack away at the 47 days we spend searching, archiving and managing our email as simplified in Andrew McAfee’s  treatment of social software platforms (Search, Ask, Share).  We do this through, for example, improved version control, transparent contribution, and ease of finding resources- both human and informational- available through these existing and ever improving social platforms.

That said, our attention needs to be on the business outcome.  We should focus our efforts, including changing our behaviors, to align the outcomes with our strategic direction.  The pull for better tools will follow naturally.

If ever there was a rationale for changing behaviors to support a social business approach inside the enterprise, freeing up at least part of the 111 days of each staffer, manager and executive currently invest in email by improving how they spend 22% of their year managing email would seem to be a good start.

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