There are hundreds of ways of communicating at work these days. We asked around to see what people thought and to pose the question: Has email really had its day?
I recently read an article called Could Gen Z Free The World From Email? It referenced a 2020 study which revealed a difference in communication and collaborative work tools between those under thirty and those over. The younger cohort preferred the likes of Google Docs, Zoom and iMessage, whilst for the older group, email was still a primary tool.
Hero to zero
I remember using email for the first time in the late nineties. Being taught how to attach and send documents to colleagues at another site. It was ace. It was like living in an episode of Tomorrow’s World (Gen Z-ers — ask your parents). For most of the following twenty-plus years, however, email has been a pain in the arse.
At times, email has felt like it controlled my schedule and workload. It’s been intrusive, a festering nagging sensation in the back of my head, a cause of dread, anxiety and even guilt. Oh, and that sinking feeling when you realise you missed an important email buried under a thousand others in your inbox. Eugh.
If I’m honest, that probably says more about me and the jobs I’ve had than it does about email. So I asked around.
Pros and cons
I asked colleagues on Slack, and friends on WhatsApp and Facebook, how they felt about the available tools. Which did they love or hate? What did they think was missing? And what about the culture surrounding contemporary comms? I wanted to know if they found themselves monitoring the various media. Was there pressure to respond quickly, especially when the sender could tell if they’d read their message. WhatsApp’s blue ticks, anyone?
There was certainly a sense of differing opinions from either side of the thirty-year-old line in the sand. But it wasn’t as black and white as I thought it might be.
A journalist friend said he liked email because he receives detailed, well thought out responses to his questions. Another bonus was the reduced risk of simple errors such as misquoted figures. He caveated that by saying sometimes emails could lead to a stilted end product and there was nothing to beat the organic flow of a phone call. But we’re not talking about talking here.
There was obviously a general dislike of logging on to an onslaught of emails. A forty something lawyer that responded referred to arriving to 60 new emails, since she logged off the previous night, as feeling like a suffocating avalanche.
Little and often?
A colleague of mine, our 3D artist Alan, who sits right on the age boundary having just turned thirty, hates email with a passion. He’s all about Slack and the way he can DM people a few times a day with small requests, updates or queries. Whereas our MD, Dan, takes a more holistic view. He sees all communication tools as having their place depending on the content, context and audience.
A couple of folk posited there were too many ways to communicate. One said what she needed now was an app which brought everything to one place — email, Slack, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp et al. But honestly, can you imagine the inbox dread when you opened that particular app?
For me, my email angst is a thing of the past. There are many reasons for that, including not being as customer facing as I once was and learning to unsubscribe ruthlessly from marketing lists. These days I keep on top of my inbox, have a manageable workload, and have more tools to hand.
At Corporation Pop we use Slack internally and Basecamp for projects in order to keep client comms in one place and accessible to all involved. We choose Google Meet and Zoom for meetings — internal and external respectively — and Google Docs for collaboration and feedback. WhatsApp, SMS, Telegram and Signal are almost exclusively used outside work. And if the phone rings, our initial reaction is usually — who’s dead?
Too much of a good thing
So is email really on its way out? And is the future of workplace communication about having a plethora of tools to go to? If that is the case, are we in danger of having too many and losing track of what we posted to where? Maybe it’s simply about being organised and making sure everybody knows which platform each type of communication should be found.
What do you think? Drop us an email, maybe.
I’ll leave you with these wise words from another colleague, Software Developer, Stuart, who said: I think saying ‘Email is outdated and used by old people — why doesn’t everyone use Slack?’ is merely the profession/LinkedIn version of ‘Facebook is outdated and used by old people – why doesn’t everyone use Tiktok?’