How to Increase Productivity by Reducing Email Usage
HOW TO INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY BY REDUCING EMAIL USAGE
There is no denying that over the years, we have become increasingly more reliant on email. We use it to sell products, provide customer support, communicate with coworkers, and more.
But is this approach truly working to our benefit?
Could reducing our email use actually help us create a more productive business environment?
Since 2015, the average amount of business email received on a daily basis has grown by 3% annually. In fact, studies show that the average corporate employee currently receives 129 emails per day.
Because email is so speedy and simple to use, it often becomes a default communication method. By using it for everything — including processes that it isn’t best suited for — we reduce the time savings and ease of use.
Think about how difficult it is to find that one attachment in a month-long correspondence, or how many emails it takes to arrange one simple meeting.
Many messages that end up in business inboxes don’t even pertain to the recipient, but it still takes time to open the message and see that it’s a thank you to someone else from another department.
Given the volume and default use of email, slogging through inboxes consumes a significant number of man-hours regardless of how quickly an employee processes them. Furthermore, if the trend continues, this figure will only increase.
Completely eliminating email simply isn’t advisable in today’s business world, though. Email represents a default mode of communication and file transmission for many businesses. Addresses are easy to get and create, and sending a message takes only the click of a button. Eliminating its use altogether would create a disadvantage in the marketplace.
However, alternative internal communications systems present a unique opportunity to trim down those 129 messages a day to a more reasonable number. By moving these messages to a format other than email, you’ll increase productivity among your employees, who won’t have their workflow interrupted as frequently by the ding of a new message in their inboxes.
You’ll also reduce file confusion that comes with passing different drafts around by email and trying to keep track of the necessary changes to the master copy.
Evaluating Your Communication Needs
The reality is that there isn’t one industry leader when it comes to email alternatives. Instead, there are a variety of options, each with its own advantages.
Making the right selection is a matter of evaluating your internal email traffic and selecting the option that best fits your business.
Some options focus on streamlined communications, offering private messaging or chat functions to keep your employees talking without consistently defaulting to email. You may also find that reducing or eliminating internal email use makes your employees more likely to communicate face-to-face, increasing camaraderie and further building a team environment.
Or, if your company relies on team collaboration, and the bulk of your email chatter consists of everyone trying desperately to stay on the same page, you might consider an email alternative with a project management focus.
A project management system gives all of the files, messages, and media a place to live, and employees can drop in at any time to access the same materials that would have been delivered to their inbox piece-by-piece. This approach provides the added advantage of organizing this material by topic and also ensuring that all employees are working from the most current documents.
Available options are as simple as task cards that track current ownership of a given task, or as complicated as full-scale project management maps, depending on your needs.
7 Great Alternatives to Email
Once you’ve identified your needs, making the switch is simply a matter of selecting the alternative that eliminates the biggest time suckers for your business. The following list of email alternatives includes options frequently recommended by users. We winnowed this list down to seven email alternatives that offer unique features to give you an overview of the wide variety of choices available to meet your specific needs.
Contrary to popular belief, this software isn’t just for video chatting. Skype presents an ideal scaled-down or beginner option for business owners to try reducing their reliance on email.
How will Skype reduce your email usage?
If your email is cluttered with one-off attempts at emailing groups to gain a quick consensus, Skype allows your employees to initiate video or voice chats with the press of a button. A simple instant messaging platform allows them to communicate directly with single employees or create group conversations to coordinate larger projects.
You can share files via instant message or share your screen during calls to communicate essential information without cluttering inboxes.
Calls can even be recorded to reduce the need for transcription and make sure all information is available to participants later.
Given its simplicity, Skype may be an ideal option for you if your business is smaller and you need all of your employees to remain in the loop on most topics.
The standard version is free, although Skype for Business also offers additional services, such as cloud file storage, for a monthly fee. Skype comes pre-installed on many devices these days, and its cross-platform versatility makes it a good choice for any business.
According to its website, Slack has over 12 million daily users, and it’s easy to see why. This collaboration hub offers many of the same communications options as Skype, with a bit more organizational complexity.
Like Skype, Slack is easy-to-install and quick to get started without an extensive amount of setup or onboarding. With desktop and app options, employees can remain in contact regardless of their location.
Slack provides a variety of features to reduce your email volume. Like Skype, it can be used for voice or video calls to answer questions on the spot. But Slack offers a few elements that Skype lacks.
Slack can interact with other apps, which gives you more options for keeping your employees up to date on other relevant conversations and project developments. It also offers more customizable messaging and interface options to better duplicate email’s capabilities. Channels can be used to organize discussions (similar to groups in Skype).
These features make Slack a good choice for companies that need to post a wider variety of information or information from a variety of software sources.
Slack offers free and paid options depending on your needs and the size of your company.
Microsoft bills Yammer as a social enterprise network, and it’s available on PC, Mac, and mobile devices as a part of Office 365.
Yammer adds another layer of complexity in comparison to the above options. It feels a bit like a Facebook hub for your business, where employees can crowdsource, collaborate, and communicate.
Yammer reduces inbox clutter by giving employees laser-focused control over the content they see. Employees can create or follow groups to get work done with a team. They can also follow specific people within your organization, facilitating information flow between collaborators.
Yammer allows your employees to share files and media and target their recipients. And polls help to collect information without a long email chain.
For larger companies with significant internal traffic, the Yammer inbox and Discovery feed help draw attention to the material employees need to see.
Complex businesses with large numbers of employees and a variety of projects to juggle may find Yammer to be a perfect fit.
Yammer comes with the Office 365 suite, so your company may already have access to this software.
Jive calls itself an “interactive intranet.” This means that it offers an extensive list of features and capabilities to replace a wide variety of apps and programs. This makes Jive one of the more comprehensive and complex options on this list.
If you’re looking for a custom organizational network with all of the bells and whistles, this may be the choice for you. Given its custom nature, it will take some setup and onboarding, but Jive users say that the payoff is worth the wait.
For Jive, the question isn’t “how does it reduce email?” It’s more “what doesn’t it do?” because the software covers all of your intranet bases. If you do want to retain some of your favorite apps such as Gmail, Sharepoint, Google Hangouts, or Salesforce, Jive will work with them to create a one-stop-shop.
It provides a huge list of features, from messaging and polls to internally hosted wikis and forums. With Jive, you can post blogs, ask the experts, collaborate on files, and more.
Analytics help you see how your employees are engaging with information, helping you to communicate essential content more effectively. Jive also offers the option to invite outside collaborators or clients to view pertinent information safely and securely.
If you’re looking for an all-encompassing internal hub for a large and complex business, Jive may be the answer you seek.
Given its complexity, Jive does not offer a free option, but since it replaces so many other apps and software options, you may still achieve overall cost savings by using it.
Trello approaches the communication question from the project management side. After all, every internal communication within your company is tied to some kind of deliverable, whether that’s getting a report to your client or putting a meeting on the calendar.
Trello organizes material on deliverable-specific cards, which can be assigned to employees, given due dates, and organized into lists. These cards can be commented on to keep the information that pertains to that task all in one place, and they can be moved and reassigned as they progress through your workflow.
Like Skype and Slack, Trello is easy to install and quick to bring employees on board. The big difference here is that the organizational focus is on the tasks, with all communication tied to a specific goal.
If a more simple project-based communication approach appeals to you, Trello may be a good fit.
Trello is free to start, although paid options with significantly increased features are offered. Business Class and Enterprise users benefit from increased security features, customization options, notifications, and app integration.
ProofHub also takes a project management focused approach to reduce email, but this option is significantly more complex than Trello. In ProofHub, tasks can be associated with each other to create an automated workflow that keeps projects moving — and notifies you when they don’t.
ProofHub provides discussion threads and calendars to keep both your employees and your organization organized without multiple back-and-forth emails. Integrated file storage, billable hour tracking, direct messaging, and project reports help to communicate essential project information. Kanban boards, Gantt charts, custom roles and workflows, and task and role assignments help you customize projects and keep all of your employees on the same page.
This software will provide much-needed assistance to companies that juggle multiple, multi-faceted projects.
Although ProofHub lacks a free option, the paid packages replace a variety of project management tools while also reducing email flow. All packages are priced with flat fees and unlimited users.
At The Writers for Hire, we use Wrike as an email replacement. Although Wrike doesn’t make most of the recommended lists, we highly recommend it as a project-management focused solution to communications.
Wrike is a project-organized communication and monitoring option most similar to ProofHub with integrated time tracking and file storage. It does an excellent job of coordinating our large group of writers and stable of projects to ensure that we remain on task — without cluttering our inboxes!
These are just a few of the email alternatives available in the marketplace today, and as you can see, there is a wide variety of choices available. Whether you prefer something small and simple or a large-scale solution that can make the most of your intranet, you’re sure to find the right fit for your business.
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