Workers Waste The Equivalent Of 73 Days A Year On Email, Study Finds
"Troy. The file you gave me is a MESS. Please REDO."
"Troy, did you realize that you misspell our company's name in the file you gave me? Twice. It would be awesome if you could proofread for five seconds next time. Thanks."
"Troy! Thanks so much for the file! There are just a couple typos here and there, and I was wondering if you could maybe take a look at it again? That would be great!!!"
Too 12-year-old schoolgirl.
Office workers today spend a lot of time crafting, reading, re-reading, and replying to emails. In fact, a new survey from the McKinsey Global Institute finds that the average "knowledge worker" (someone whose job mostly involves interacting with co-workers, customers or suppliers) spends 28 percent of their time doing just that. If you work 260 days a year, that's a full 73 days spent emailing.
Email is usually one-on-one communication, and a lot of information that would be useful to a lot of people is "locked up in email inboxes." If this information and communication was switched to social platforms instead, like blogs and social networks, the productivity of these workers could soar by 20 to 25 percent, McKinsey predicts.
Looking at just four sectors -- consumer packaged goods, retail financial services, advanced manufacturing, and professional services -- McKinsey estimates that this could add value on a "potentially transformative scale." A scale like over $1 trillion a year.
Over the past couple of years, the word on the street has been that kids are ditching email for online chat and texting. Back in 2010, The New York Times observed that email was losing its cache with the youth because "it involves a boringly long process of signing into an account, typing out a subject line and sending a message that might not be received or answered for hours. And sign-offs like 'sincerely' -- seriously?"
It seems that business leaders might be wise to listen to their teenage texters, instead of telling them to please put the iPhone down and eat your sprouts. For kids, email is slow and inefficient and lame. For office workers, it's slow and inefficient and pouring millions of profits into the abyss.
But before our higher-ups decide to completely revolutionize the way our companies work, we're stuck with email. So we might as well try to make it a little less of a time-suck. Here are five tips to streamline your emailing:
Does a new email ping or pop up when it arrives in your inbox? Turns out, having your work interrupted every 15 minutes isn't the most efficient way to do anything. Turn off your email alert, and simply check your inbox at regular intervals throughout the day.
If your email chain with another person has ping-ponged more than twice back and forth, call the person. Another five emails, and the half hour spent composing them, would probably take a three minute call.
Has your email thread gone on so long that you're no longer emailing about anything to do with the subject line? Change the subject line.
Are you writing an email, and it's winding on for five paragraphs? No one is going to read all of those five paragraphs. Delete anything unnecessary, and bullet point the important things.
Distro lists are handy. Sometimes too handy, like when every single person on that distro doesn't need to see that email. Type out the recipients who should actually get the message manually, and you'll help de-clog some of your co-workers' inboxes.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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