Why it’s time for email to die – embrace the future of work

Email is killing internal communications – let’s fight back

Email is bad for internal communications and productivity

I hate email. And I bet you do too. But too many of us are still its slave. Today, let us take back control. Let’s put people and productivity back into the heart of work.

Let us liberate the inbox-enslaved.

Let us step away from the “reply all” the “dear all” and the passive-aggressive “CC”. Which, by the way, stands for Carbon Copy. Come on, Carbon Copy! It’s time to move on!

In many organisations, email has completely replaced what we think of as real work. But we know that valuable work like collaborating with colleagues, project management and communicating as leaders are poorly served by email.

Yet we persist in managing workflow and communications by a network of inbox-driven individuals who can only keep work going by putting all their energy into continually checking, sending and replying in an attempt to maintain control and push things towards completion.

Yet, it’s not even efficient at pushing things towards completion. Email threads lead to more email threads, which lead to inefficient meetings. It could be two weeks before you have a decision or a way forward on something very simple.

And everything is jumbled together. With equal weighting given to an important CEO announcement and a maintenance request to stop leaving biscuits out for the mice.

That’s not all. One of the biggest evils of email in my book is that it’s secret by nature. Unless you’re bought into the loop you don’t know what conversations are taking place. In these closed cultures, you get silos of information and comfort in secrecy.

Isn’t it more satisfying to be part of the conversation? 

To work in an open culture where it’s more inclusive and you can have a say? So email is bad for building positive work culture, it encourages people to hold onto knowledge as a source of power and it’s bad for getting stuff done because the right people don’t know what’s happening.

We’ve probably all worked with people who like to be the knowledge filter. They drip-feed snippets of ‘insider information’ to make you feel special. Then you realise they are telling other people the same ‘secret’ information or telling everyone different information… playing people and teams off against each other. It’s like working in a quick-sand culture. You have no idea what’s really going on.

No one will run their company by email in the future

50% of the workforce will be Millennials in 2020, according to PWC, and they want to feel empowered to make a difference, but really, isn’t that what we all want? The future of work will be open and collaborative and the tools we use need to naturally support that sort of culture. And that’s a culture that’s better for our souls and our mental health.

Secret by default

The very clever Marshal McLuhan once said the medium is the message. So the medium itself sets the tone, it’s not our fault email brings out the worst in people and businesses. Even the most well-intentioned can’t escape that email is secret by default and slow at helping us make decisions. And we are bound by its super formal conventions.


Another big weakness is it’s text-based. There’s a visual element to pretty much every channel we use in our personal lives nowadays. And it’s hard to be nuanced, even if you spend two hours crafting what you think is the perfect response, Linda from HR is still offended by the ‘tone’ you used.

Linda from HR horrified at our email ‘tone’

Say I receive an email from a team member, it contains a long proposal but I can’t answer it straight away and anyway I can see it’s not in line with the direction we’re going. I can ignore it, acknowledge it ‘quickly’ or respond fully to the proposal. If I ignore it until I’m ready Fred won’t be recognised for his efforts for quite some time (recognition delayed is recognition denied) and if I reply it’s going to take me away from the project I’m working on…I decide to reply…

The rules of email: this is what I have to say:

Hi Fred  (no “hi” or “dear” and people get offended)

Thank you for your email (got to have an acknowledgement in an email!)

Love the idea and what you’ve put into it, let’s discuss it when I’m in the office. (now I’ve had to lie because I’m doing this quickly, no time for nuance.)

Kind regards, Caroline (got to have a nice formal sign off)

Fred knows by this response that I don’t really like what he’s said. But it’s also taken me at least five minutes to write that email. It’s taken my focus from the project I should be working on, so that’s really a 15-minute gap before I get back to the deep concentration I need to finish my task.

What if I had a social tool that I could ‘simply’ like Fred’s post on his proposal, so he feels acknowledged. He gets a tiny dopamine hit from that and feels good. Another colleague sees it, recognises relevance for a project they are working on it and leaves a comment. Now Fred is very happy. I spent one second on my like, get back to my project in five mins and move on. I add a hashtag #task on Fred’s post so I remember to talk about it in our catch up, that goes straight into my task management tool with a precis of the conversation.

We’re friends!

What if such a tool existed. Oh, but it does. Now don’t be disappointed that I’ve drawn you in with a compelling argument (so modest Watkin!) and now I damp your squib with a sales plug.

Come on, I’m not like that, you‘ve read this far, we’re friends now. If you know me, you know I’ve got integrity coming out my ears. Ok, so there was this one time I said I could waterski to impress a boy but hey who hasn’t stretched their integrityness (yeah it’s a word) in the pursuit of love.

I digress, the tool is Workplace by Facebook and I love it. I implemented it for Robert Walters Group and I saw the impact it had on culture, communications and decision making. Of course, other social collaboration tools are available.

Collaborating is key to productivity

By collaborating in groups we all see what’s going on, we can send more nuanced internal communications more quickly, and we can see who is online and jump on a quick call or video call to get a quick decision. What takes two weeks in an email/meetings culture takes us two hours in a collaborative open one.

Communications drive a business

Great communication is a real competitive advantage. 69% of CEOs surveyed by Deloitte think open communications will help them achieve their vision. Yet only 14% are satisfied with current communications.

We’re at a tipping point. Compelling internal communications can’t be built around email any longer and neither can great work environments.

Choose people. Choose productivity. Choose life.*

Let’s chat more about changing your company into a community: call me, Caroline, on + 44 (0) 7946 524 304 or email me at hello@the300.co

*90s film reference to Train Spotting there for all the Generation Xers.

Guest speaking and cooking with Masgroves

In July, co-founder, Caroline Watkin spoke at Masgroves panel event with a difference. Her challenge was to talk ‘Is Digital Killing Communications’ whilst cooking kedgeree in the style of TV’s Saturday Kitchen!

Caroline led with the perspective that actually, companies will be killed if they don’t fully embrace the latest digital tools in the workplace.

She also argued that companies should simplify all things digital things for their employees.

According to a recent report, an average enterprise uses 461 disparate apps – with each functional group relying on specialized functional apps designed to serve them better.*

No wonder employees are confused!

The average number of apps we use to get work done
*Source Mary Meeker Internet Trends 2017

The impact of poor technology on employee engagement is well documented. 42% of Millennials believe employers should always adopt the latest tech and 53% say they are more likely to accept a job offer if their employer uses the same consumer-based tech they use in everyday life – according to Robert Walters research.

As a Workplace by Facebook partner, Caroline talked about the role Workplace can play in streamlining communications and the employee experience. Providing one place for employees to access all their tools, collaborate in workgroups and hear the latest news from the CEO. Creating that essential community needed to connect your people to your purpose which is at the heart of an engaged workforce.

Thursday brunch in action

Caroline was hosted by Tony and Stuart from Masgroves. To attend a future Thursday Brunch, packed with guests, cookery and chat, drop Caroline a line and she’ll get you signed up: caroline.watkin@the300.co

What we discussed

  • How to increase collaboration company-wide
  • Practical tips on using technology to promote an open way of working
  • How to drive cultural change
  • Discover how user-generated communication works
  • Understand how technology is changing how we work – for the better

If you’d like to find out more about how Workplace by Facebook give Caroline a call on 07946 524 304 or click here to start a free trial

The future of work in partnership with Facebook

70 business leaders joined us in March for an informal breakfast seminar hosted by Workplace by Facebook in partnership with the 300.

During the seminar, co-founders, Caroline and Phil discussed the unstoppable trends shaping the world of work and how modern leaders are changing the way they engage and communicate to meet the needs of their people.

Rachel Clacher, co-founder of Moneypenny, a regular in the Sunday Times Best Place to Work, talked about how placing people at the heart of business strategy has informed the success of her company.

A Workplace customer, Rachel told us how the innovative communications platform has enhanced community, culture and the bottom line.

Ruth Dance, Managing Director of the Employee Engagement Alliance also joined us on the panel for a debate with the Workplace by Facebook team.

Future of Work Panel Event
Our panel debating how to create the modern workplace.

Some of our guests were also treated to an exclusive Oculus demonstration, Facebook’s virtual reality technology.

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