Why Team Email Doesn’t Always Make Sense

Annually, unnecessary emails cost the average employer $1,800 per employee in productivity.

Annually, unnecessary emails cost the average employer $1,800 per employee in productivity—a brand new 27-inch iMac or, more importantly, 602 ice cream cones (say goodbye to that ice cream social.) With more efficient digital communication, companies can get that money back to invest in other areas of the business.

To optimize the time and money we spend on email, we can’t count on it as our sole communication platform. We need to diversify with a full stack of synchronous and asynchronous communication tools.

Email isn’t dead—but it is outdated and overused

Email is one of the more outdated communication channels of our time—and it’s used way too much.

The first email was sent in 1965 and became mainstream in the late ’80s/early ’90s with the introduction of platforms like Microsoft Mail. Communication has come a long way since then, and we no longer operate—personally or professionally—in such analog ways. Today, online messaging platforms dominate the workplace, with Slack, the most popular example, reaching more than 10 million daily users in 2019.

Today’s most successful teams are highly collaborative. Traditional email is clunky and distracting, and it simply isn’t conducive to a synergetic approach, especially a remote-first distributed team.

Email is something that’s fully integrated into our personal lives—therefore, it’s naturally integrated into our work lives. That can be good and bad. While it’s good for working parents who like to check their email in line at daycare, it’s bad for your newest employee on the verge of burnout.

A study by Atlassian showed that the average employee checks their email 36 times per hour, and it takes approximately 16 minutes to regain focus each time they tackle their inbox. That doesn’t exactly scream productivity.

Research also shows that “inbox zero” is becoming increasingly hard to achieve, leading to more information overload at work. According to Adobe’s 2019 email usage study, only 46% of working-age knowledge workers could clear out their inboxes, compared to 55% in 2018. Out of those who couldn’t get to “inbox zero,” 41% considered an empty inbox impossible.

Email isn't secure enough, especially for growing teams

Sure, your team probably utilizes other platforms for communication—like Slack—but for more formal internal collaboration, documentation, and more, email can be overwhelming and ineffective. Plus, when you count on email alone for your work communications, you miss out on the increased security of diversified platforms.

Email is also not that secure—take it from 2018’s $3B email scandal, where cyber attackers used psychological techniques like phishing to steal billions in intellectual property from global organizations. Many communication platforms with more specialized features than email only allow messages within an organization, adding a layer of privacy that protects against these kinds of incidents. A potential attacker must hack directly into one of those tools to interact with your team instead of simply spoofing an email from your organization.

The importance of a tool that keeps your communications closer to your team than email becomes even clearer when you learn how many data breaches involve outside parties. In 2020, Verizon examined 3,950 business data breaches across the world as part of their Data Breach Investigations Report. Seventy percent of those attacks involved external actors rather than someone inside of the organization.

Also, when your team works with multiple platforms, possible attackers can’t access all of your information through one platform alone. By keeping different parts of your communication data and documents on more than one software, you make hackers work much harder to steal it all.

Email can’t fulfill the needs of modern async work

2020 launched most companies into their (likely inevitable) remote-first future. Many businesses have proved their resilience and resourcefulness in pivoting to a digital, virtual, and asynchronous communication strategy—but email is just one part of it.

Asynchronous communication has been making its way to the forefront of enterprise comms for some time now—starting with consumers. (Think: Reddit, where users easily discuss topics async.) The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that growth on the business side, leading to new digital communication challenges for companies.

For businesses that were already distributed before the pandemic, async communications are second nature. But for many, we found ourselves scrambling for ways to stay connected and productive—and that often meant forcing our current ways of working into the tools we know best, like email.

But instead of simply optimizing those tools, companies should have been transforming the tools they use to collaborate and communicate. Today’s teams need better access to historical context, evergreen resources, notes, proposals, and similar ongoing documents. We call this an archive of work, and you can’t make an effective one through email alone.

With so many of today’s workers collaborating remotely, organizations also need to go beyond email to keep employees engaged. As Verizon puts it, “communication will need to increasingly resemble social media,” creating a seamless work environment through multimedia. When you rely on email by itself for async collaboration, you miss out on opportunities to help your team feel involved in their work.

Email should make up a single part of a multi-tool communication suite

The importance of context is more vital now than ever. To reach maximum alignment, collaboration, and productivity, email should be used in conjunction with other communication channels, like Threads.

Threads helps us solve the issues associated with an email-only workplace with advantages such as:

We’re not arguing that email should be eliminated altogether (actually, it’s the opposite).

Email should be reserved for what email is good for—external communications, marketing, and automated messages like meeting invites. For things like project proposals, internal comms, project collaboration, onboarding materials, and more, you need a tool that makes it impossible to lose important documents and context.

Get started on Threads today for free at threads.com.