How much is email costing your organisation every year, well according to a report from the International Journal of Internet and Enterprise Management it is between €5k and €10k per annum. Based on a survey of company email use revealed typically that almost 20% of emails was cc’ed unnecessarily – only 46% that required an action on the part of the recipient actually stated what the expected action was and 56% of employees remarked that email is used too often instead of telephone or face-to-face.
We tend to think of technology as a business blessing particularly when it comes to repetitive tasks. Imagine having to sit down at a typewriter and write a letter in the old fashioned way and even though the content may be long and maybe the same you have to start at the beginning and type it all out again for each new letter. We wonder how any business was done using this system which was very much part of business life for the best part of a century. Now we create one letter, we save the copy and just change minor details and wow does this increase productivity. We then send it electronically so that the recipient has it in seconds no matter what part of the world they are in. This is just one small part of the productivity gain we have made through the use of technology.
Similarly, think of a ten or twenty page document coming into the office and what you needed to do in order to circulate it to four or five people. You have to go to the photocopier and make copies and then physically distribute them within the building or in different locations. Another task made much easier today because you can forward it by email to the necessary people, again in seconds. However, as humans we adapt technology to suit our purposes and self preservation is always at the heart of it. What happens when we need to create a document or respond to something that means we are responsible for its contents? Why not cover our back and cc someone or include a group even though their link to the information may be tenuous. They are now in the loop and will give us an out if any part of the content is incorrect.
It all makes sense to have shared responsibility rather than taking on the risk ourselves, doesn’t it? What we ignore is the added work we create which has an adverse effect on productivity, productivity that is not calculated or included in any budget. Imagine asking someone in finance or human resources to sign off on thousands of euros or possibly tens of thousands of euro because of our abuse of a perceived productive tool. This is happening every day in every company and goes unnoticed because it has become an accepted habit. We are connected to the positives effectives of the technology but disconnected to the adverse effects our poor use of it can have on the bottom line.
Strangely enough I have yet to come in contact with an organisation where there is a robust policy addressing this and other email issues.
What can you do to remedy the situation? Firstly, recognise that this is an issue and monitor how it is impacting on you. Take a note of all emails that you are included in but have no real contribution to make. How many people are you including in threads that do not need to included. Very quickly you can calculate your time and the cost to your organisation. For example if you spend just one hour per week which could be billed at €50 then that equates to €2.5k per annum in lost productivity. How many employees are caught up in this poor use of time and what is the impact on shareholder value?
Now we know the impact, what strategy can we employ to minimise its impact. Ask those concerned to consider their motive for including someone in a thread. Ask them would you go to the trouble of actually photocopying that document and distributing it by hand as done in the past? Create a clear policy around this habit. You have policies around wastage and use of the company Credit Card so it makes sense to create and enforce a policy that has huge cost implications around productivity.
- Communicate the challenge
- Collaborate with your team to identify a strategy to reducing the cost
- Monitor the results and amend plan as required