Researchers say the average employee spends 28% of the workweek managing email. No doubt, email is an extremely important part of our work life. Sending reports, collaborating, staying informed about corporate matters, serving customers, and maintaining business relationships are all done over heaps of emails. For most people, email is the first and last action of the day. Although some have learned the art of keeping this heap under control, most have not. Email overload is at least 10 years old; HBR published articles on the topic in 2012. If our lives have changed so much since then, why does email overload still exist, and how can we overcome it?
Deliver a Digital Employee Experience
We are living a digital life, particularly as the world fights COVID-19. Mobile apps enable us to catch up with family, friends, and coworkers. Online tools let artists collaborate remotely on videos and music. Meeting software helps children attend virtual classes. Chatbots help service providers and brands respond to customer queries over social networks.
None of these examples is from a workplace. The employee experience is dramatically different from the customer experience, although the 2020 State of the Digital Workplace Report shows 81% of organizations view the digital workplace as important. Companies aspire to leverage technology to achieve better business outcomes, retain talent, and build competitive advantage. Their challenge is not belief, but adoption.
A recent survey on companies’ readiness for the digital employee experience shows that organizations’ readiness for the digital employee experience is lagging. Only 46% of companies show Technology readiness, 30% show People readiness, and just 27% show Process readiness. Technology readiness is improving thanks to fast adoption of digital workplace solutions, but there’s still quite a ways to go. Change management initiatives and culture change may influence adoption, but organizations must also embrace tools that are already available for this purpose.
Microsoft Teams is One Solution
Microsoft Teams is a powerful tool that can usher-in the changes companies need to make in their operations, communications, and collaboration. Not surprisingly, much of the digital employee experience it enables has to do with replacing some of those heaps of email.
Communicate: In the past, we’d call this sending email. Using MS Teams, employees can chat with the appropriate audience(s), pin chats for easy access, and even create new Teams or Channels to communicate and maintain chats with the same group repeatedly over time.
Respond: Replying to emails constitutes a large part of workers’ days, but that can be minimized with MS Teams. Users can leverage the “Reply All with IM” functionality of Outlook to reply over Teams Chat, rename chat titles based on email subjects, post messages in chat, and leverage the Teams and/or Channels referenced above for group discussions.
Gather and Share Information: Email forwards and attachments have traditionally been the primary means of collecting data and sharing it with colleagues. With MS Teams, employees can forward information to the Teams Channel from Outlook using the Channel’s email address, upload files to Chat, or use forms to post a survey over Chat or Teams to gauge the group’s thoughts.
Co-Work on Documents: Back-and-forth email chains with manually versioned attachments can finally be a thing of the past. Any Microsoft Office document uploaded to MS Teams is automatically enabled for co-work, and document versioning supports check-in/check-out functionality.
Moreover, as with all of the features above, if Federation is enabled, employees can perform all of these tasks with their customers, partners, and vendors as well.
Secret Sustainability Gains
Recently, the UK’s leading independent energy provider, OVO Energy, commissioned research on the carbon footprint of sending and receiving emails. This research showed that almost 72% of users are unaware that there’s a carbon footprint associated with email. And what a footprint it is! The average office worker receives 121 emails per day. Based on OVO Energy’s calculations, those emails result in 1,652 g of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per day, per worker. Clearly all of those CCs and BCCs have a compound effect not just on the feeling of email overload, but on the environment as well. Had workers known about this impact, perhaps 49% of all users wouldn’t have confessed to sending unnecessary emails to a colleague within talking distance.
Although there are no carbon-footprint statistics for Microsoft Teams, the generally shorter texts, the use of likes/emojis, and the lack of attachments likely has a smaller carbon footprint than emails. (If you’re curious about the carbon footprint you’re generating through emails, check out this calculator.)
Experts say email overload is a symptom of a larger issue, and potentially indicative of management dysfunction. While Microsoft Teams is not a cure-all solution, it can help eradicate the culture of email overload and help organizations deliver on their long-sought digital employee experience. Consider issuing a Teams adoption challenge to co-workers by asking them to use the Microsoft Teams app or web from any location or device. If nothing else, Teams will save them from needing to read yet another email.