Tackling the UK’s email epidemic

Email can feel like a spreading disease – impacting productivity and risking the loss of important information. Better handling and filing is the answer says Alec Milton, managing director at Oasys Mail Manager.

15741576451_299bb6ef8d_oIn a speech delivered at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference, Professor Sir Cary Cooper said British productivity was the second lowest in the G7 group of nations partly because the UK embraced digital technology ‘a bit too enthusiastically’.

Sir Cary went on to discuss the ‘email epidemic’ of UK workers reading and checking emails as a ‘compulsion’ and significant cause for low productivity levels in the workplace.

This is unsurprising given that an average UK worker spends 492 hours per year, sending or receiving an average of 114 emails per day – according to research by the Radicati Group.

That means the average annual cost of the time spent laboriously monitoring and dealing with emails could be as much as £6,555 per employee a year, based on median earnings figures. That ultimately costs the UK economy a staggering £203.4 billion a year.

The UK economy is growing but concerns remain about our ability to sustain growth without a stronger output per employee. The increasing inefficiencies in the way people use email means that this time is costing the UK economy more and more as the value and usefulness of those emails reduces.

Barely an hour passes without most of us wondering why we were copied into a certain email. The amount of email duplication in business communications is huge and it is taking its toll on productivity.

Tackling the habits of an unproductive yet compulsive and digitally enthusiastic UK workforce looks like an uphill battle. A steady improvement in how we use email would generate significant flex in our workload by freeing up vital hours to focus on core tasks. This would ultimately contribute to economic production and growth.

As well as instigating email etiquette guidelines to encourage responsible messaging habits, some organisations have adopted email management systems to file important messages into secure storage and share them.

Managing information is managing productivity

If you were asked to locate all the email correspondence that your organisation had with a client, how quickly could you do it? What if all those involved left the organisation three years ago and their accounts were archived? Can you be sure that you are not breaking any data protection laws by trawling through their email to find what you need?

Shared storage solutions are one way to ensure emails and communications are not only stored easily but also readily accessible. Workers can find all emails exchanged with a given client or colleague regardless of whether they were the recipient. These systems can both protect businesses from litigation and generate efficiencies simply because it’s easy to find emails even years after the event.

Email management systems will work intuitively with the likes of SharePoint and some will allow you to file to a range of places including OneDrive, GoogleDrive and your own file system folders. In many cases you can access your data via a mobile device and even file email from it too.

Such systems come into their own if someone moves department, leaves completely or has a job share. Data would not be stuck within an individual’s inbox but available to all of those who need it.

It’s all very well providing people with the tools but if they don’t use them you have wasted your money. The software can help here too, as some tools intelligently track filing behaviours and guide people where to file messages based on their content.

The sheer volume of emails we receive means filing and storing them effectively is much harder. Employers have to address this, either with practical advice or by investing in software to aid email management.

Ultimately emails are all about information and access to information is crucial for collaboration and productivity. Technology, along with more behavioural led approaches, can allow co-workers access to critical information when needed.

The result everyone wants is enhanced flexibility of handling information so workers can get on with the job in hand.

Alec Milton

Main image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dskley/

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