Why email still reigns supreme

I'm king of the (white collar) world!

One of the more annoying parts of our online lives is a thing that's been top of the digital communication heap for decades. This week, even amidst all the hype (and laughs) about the release of Google's new smartphone colours.

People all over the web were also talking about email. Yeah, email! It makes no difference how far we've come with chat apps and productivity tools and multiple ways to message each other. Email is still king of the (white collar) world!

And it's holding the throne too. According to a new report by Adobe this week, email is thriving. At least among the white collar workers they surveyed.

Compared to a similar study they conducted last year, time spent checking both personal and work email has increased 17 per cent.

And the "always on" culture we've talked about so much on Spark, is as present as ever. On weekends, people are still checking their inboxes: they send an average of 19 emails, and read 29.

And sadly, 79 per cent say they check email while on vacation.

Hey, are you working? We're on vacation, man! (Michelle Parise)

And if you're thinking, "I'm no slave to my inbox!" the Washington Post has made a depressing calculator to prove you wrong. Simply add in the age you began working, the age you expect to retire, the number of times you interrupt what you're doing to check email and....presto! Guaranteed to depress you.

A big part of the email problem is the pressure to respond. As the Adobe study found, half of the survey respondents feel like they have to respond to a work email in less than an hour. And that's just us oldsters. More than a quarter of all millennials surveyed expect a response within a few minutes! I thought they didn't even use email!

But what if we started approaching our inboxes as we would our mailboxes? That's one of the tips in a new book that came out this week called, Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distraction, and Get Real Work Done. In it, author Jocelyn Glei suggests we think of it this way: if you received 100 letters today would you think you had to respond to them all by end of day?

The thing is, there are all these tools that promised easy ways to collaborate with coworkers and friends - there's Slack, or Facebook groups, or G-chat, or a host of other social software that could have, and should have, replaced email. Alas.

The good news is, texting has had an impact on the way we email at work. So at the very least, those 100 emails you haven't looked at yet? They're a lot less formal, and a LOT shorter than emails of yore. Almost half of white collar workers think it's perfectly acceptable to put emojiis in emails! And among colleagues, we've mostly done away with those pesky salutations and valedictions.

And that's...progress?  


To get to the bottom of why we still use email even though everyone complains about it, we called up Luis Suarez. He's an independent adviser who helps businesses adapt to using new social tools, and he's not a fan of email in the workplace. He calls it "the most powerful cop-out weapon we have...we use it to bully other people, especially when you start using the cc and bcc fields."

More than that, he says, email is very good at protecting and holding one's knowledge, even when that's not a good thing.

"It's not open enough, it's not transparent enough and it's not public enough," he says. 

Luis was on Spark back in 2009, talking about the limits of email, but a lot has changed since then. Listen to his thoughts this week, on the recent study about email use.

Email is still the number one communication tool in white collar jobs according to a new study despite the promise of social software. 12:28

This month, Facebook is launching Facebook at Work, which is not about scrolling through pics of your niece when you're supposed to be working. It's about a separate workplace account that's for business. It's already been used on a trial basis by hundreds of companies, including Canadian Tire here in Canada. What do you think? Do you put anything in place to limit the distractions of email when you're working? Let us know in the comments below.


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