Tech experts predict the death of office email. Hurrah, says writer Nikki Moore.
Never was a relationship more love/hate than ours with office email. One minute we want to be ‘looped in’, the next we’re cursing being CC’d on a message with several hundred others to say ‘Thanks’ to the original (fool) sender. We want your Kanye memes on Friday afternoon, but we will kill you if you send that shizz on Monday morning. Add in ‘mailbox is full’ alerts, constant out-of-offices, your mum sending you lame ‘scroll down’ jokes and the horror of a post-holiday inbox, and it’s no surprise that a recent survey showed that office email is the bane of most workers’ lives.
But change is afoot. With a growing number of companies embracing new communication methods, tech experts – me included – are predicting the end of traditional workplace email.
There are now so many other tools out there doing the job just as well, or better, that many big businesses, such as Facebook and IT firm Atos, are starting to opt out of email. At Facebook, workers use WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, while many firms use messaging apps where people can be added in and out of conversations as needed. Others share information via sharing docs on office servers. In Silicon Valley, things are a step ahead, with Stewart Butterfield, founder of photo-sharing website Flickr and team-messaging application Slack, announcing last week that his firm has ditched email in favour of online ‘channels’.
Zoe Cunningham, managing director of tech company Softwire, tells Grazia, ‘It’s becoming widely acknowledged in the industry that email is not always the best tool. I expect to see more platforms develop, each fulfilling a function that used to belong to email. For example, LinkedIn already surpasses email as a way to do cold introductions. Email has become such a large distraction in the workplace that if we don’t lose it completely, we need to start training our employees how to not let it interfere with their jobs.’
The newest tech start-ups, those firms that light the way we all eventually follow, definitely see email as out of touch with the way we need to do business now. Mark Burgess, an emeritus professor of computer science and global technology advisor, tells me, ‘In start-up culture, people are switched on around the clock and interweave their communication naturally into their workflow – instant messenger and chat apps work really well for that.’
‘Alerts anxiety’ – the urge to check and recheck inboxes – is out of control for many of us. That’s another factor driving companies to get rid of email and, in doing so, they could be on to a win-win. Greater productivity for them, a better work-life balance for us. So how imminent is the end of email? Realistically, I wouldn’t hit ‘delete all’ just yet. It’s still good for sending attachments and keeping track of what’s been said and when. But these days, we demand ‘easy and instant’ from our tech – email’s just not cutting it.
This article orginally appeared in Grazia Magazine.