Having to read and respond to emails—and often failing to read and respond to emails—is the common experience that unites professionals in nearly every field. So can you imagine if your boss decided to ban internal emails?

That’s what Thierry Breton is planning to do as CEO of the international IT company, Atos, which is headquartered in France. By 2014, Breton wants all of his employees to opt instead for in-person, instant-messaging, or social media communication.

Why is Breton making such a radical change to the traditional structure of workplace communication? Atos reportedly conducted research on how email was used within the company, which has around 80,000 employees worldwide. According to BBC News, they found that . . .

  • Employees spent 15–20 hours each week reading emails, both at work and at home
  • Employees received an average of 100 emails each day
  • 15% of those emails were reported as useful or relevant

Atos does seem to be experiencing a severe problem if they have to read and respond to hundreds of messages each week. We all know how it feels to lose hours of valuable time dealing with emails, but should email really be banned?

Not to fear, email marketers. “External email is a fantastic tool – it’s a fantastic way to communicate between organisations,” said Breton in the BBC News interview.

Significantly, Breton doesn’t consider email an outdated communication method. Email itself isn’t the problem, it’s how email is used, and this explains why Breton only targets internal email. Emails sent externally, especially in email marketing, are crafted much more thoughtfully than the messages we send each day to our coworkers. At Fathom, I’ve been told to send one email per topic, each with a self-explanatory subject line. This tip can create a larger volume of emails, but it certainly helps you send clear, concise messages.

Breton doesn’t state it specifically, but the thing he seems to dislike most about email is the time delay it builds into the communication process. Although lack of immediacy is what causes our inboxes to fill up, the time delay can also be considered email’s greatest strength. Email is extremely useful when you don’t feel like interrupting someone. And when you’re waiting for a response, you can temporarily escape the responsibility of dealing with the issue yourself.

In the end, what worries me about this ban on internal email is that Atos is an information technology company—and if anyone is going to initiate a huge shift in the way we communicate in the workplace, wouldn’t Atos be a logical candidate?

Although the benefits of using email are evident, I think it’s far more realistic to believe we’ll all adopt new internal communication systems before we ever learn to use email as efficiently as possible.


*Image provided by m-c on Flickr


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About Karen Cover

Karen Cover is a Content Strategist for Fathom Education, a higher education marketing agency in Cleveland, Ohio. She specializes in Copywriting and Copywriter Training, Content Marketing, Branding and SEO. Karen is a Hiram College graduate and member of the Resource Council for the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature. Follow Karen on Twitter at @KarenCover.

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