Why Email is Ineffective for Workplace Communication

Does your company’s internal communication happen through email? Are employees relying on email to communicate while collaborating or troubleshooting a problem? Are answers to important questions buried under long threads? Or worse under hundreds of ‘reply all” messages? If you answered yes to any of these, you probably already know that email is ineffective for a lot of the day to day communication we do at work.

While it is a great tool for certain types of communication, such as reaching out to third-party vendors or contacting customers, using it as the default tool for getting work done is not ideal. The following eight points reveal why email is ineffective for productivity as well as a big source of frustration and an exclusionary communication method for deskless employees.

1. Email Overload

In 2017, over 269 billion emails were sent/received each day. The average worker will receive 122 of those emails each day, of which only 38 percent will contain important, relevant information. When people are bombarded with all of this superfluous information, they simply bulk delete or skim through, making it easy to miss important information that is buried.

2. Wasted Time

The McKinsey Global Institute found that the average employee spends 13 hours a week checking, reading and responding to emails— eating up 28 percent of the work week. With less than half of emails deserving attention and many going unread, this is a big chunk of wasted time. On top of this, simply getting back to work after answering an email takes an average of 64 seconds. This decreases productivity when employees are checking their emails 36 times per hour. A customer-facing employee simply cannot check email at that rate as it would not only impact productivity but also customer satisfaction.

3. Not Made for Collaboration

Email was not designed to be a collaboration tool, yet so many people use it that way. From managing projects to troubleshooting a problem, neverending email threads become inefficient, confusing, and bad for productivity. With many collaboration and project management products now available, email should never be the place you turn in order to stay on top of tasks and projects.

4. Not Made for Real-Time Conversations

We know from our constant texting that misunderstandings and misread subtext happen all the time. Email is fine for certain use-cases and activities, but when you need to hold a conversation with one person or a group of people, email should not be the default. Employees must be equipped with all modes of communication so that they can choose the appropriate mode for each situation. Sometimes it calls for an instant message, a phone call, a screen sharing call, or even a push to talk (radio) exchange.

5. Deskless Workers Don’t Use Email

Over 72 percent of the workforce doesn’t sit at a desk and doesn’t use email. These deskless workers, such as field engineers, hospitality staff, and utility workers, need to know what’s going on at the company but when that information is sent through email, it completely misses them. Ensuring deskless workers receive internal communications is crucial to keep them in-the-know and engaged. One company found that retention rates and job performance improved greatly when they stopped sending information over email and switched to a mobile-first method that employees were already using.

6. Not Mobile-First

Email was designed for computers with a larger screen, not mobile devices. Email, even on a mobile app, is slow, clunky and often confusing. Deskless workers are often on the go or have to problem solve on the spot in front of customers and can’t wade through endless emails to find the information they need. And when they need an answer fast, they aren’t going to get one through email.

7. No Accountability

With email, there is little accountability and no easy way to know if someone has opened and read the message. Corporate comms or HR has no way of knowing if employees have read an important company update and anything can be chalked up to, “Oh, I didn’t get that email.”

8. Ineffective Content Repository

We’ve established why email is ineffective for real-time communication and collaboration but it is also a poor repository for company knowledge. Searching your inbox is always a headache. You rack your brain for a keyword or who sent the email or worse what date it was received. There is simply no way to remember all of that detail when your inbox is clogged up with hundreds of emails. And for employees who aren’t sitting in front of a laptop or desktop, it’s even harder to search for the right email exchange. According to research from The Service Council, the #2 thing field service employees dislike is the amount of time it takes to find the information needed to do their jobs.

A Better Alternative to Workplace Emails

While perfectly adequate for certain communication use-cases, email is ineffective for many crucial communication activities. For businesses to thrive, it’s crucial to think strategically about finding a solution that effectively connects teams in real-time so they can collaborate, get answers and share information. Even more, leaders must ensure corporate communications reach all levels of the organization.

Corporate communication tools like Zinc ensure communication flows freely across the org and everyone from the office to the field stays up-to-date on all the latest information. 

At Zinc, we’ve been solving these communication issues for companies with deskless workers across various industries. Zinc Real-Time Communication allows users to target messages thus avoiding communication overload and wasted time, communicate using whichever mode best fits the situation, and send top-down communications in an effective and consumable way. With key metrics and communication analytics data, management knows immediately how informed the workforce is. And because Zinc is designed for the deskless worker, it is mobile-first and easy to use.

ABOUT Kristen Wells

Kristen is the senior manager of corporate communications at PTC and editor of Field Service Digital. She is passionate about elevating the stories of women in field service and improving communication between the field and the office. Prior to ServiceMax, Kristen held content marketing roles at startups such as Zinc and cielo24. Kristen holds a B.A. in Communication with an emphasis on Professional Writing from the University of California, Santa Barbara.