Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos, one of Europe’s largest IT companies, has banned email within his company. And he is not the only one, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the chairman of Ferrari, has clamped down on the amount of emails sent, encouraging his employees to “talk to each other more and write less”.
Breton’s ‘zero email initiative’, was instantly criticised. Employees of Atos questioned how realistic banning internal emails would be across the organisation. However, Breton’s initiative is still in place today, and it is working.
Posing the question, is email dead?
Breton argues his employees spent 15-20 hours per week checking emails, and only 15% of those are relevant to their work. Undeniably, emails are quick, direct and don’t put people on the spot. Yet email can be abused. Messages can stay in inboxes without being read or replied to for days and clients are just email addresses.
What is the alternative?
Picking up the phone to speak to a client, is frequently seen as a last resort in the workplace. Kevin Castle, the CTO of Technossus, a business software company, considers unexpected phone calls to be such an inconvenience; he unplugs his phone and hides it away. Castle believes phoning without emailing first implies that your needs are more important than your clients.
However, the advantages of phone calls are clear; you can build trust and rapport with clients. Your tone of voice is easier to convey, and it’s easier to influence others whilst on the phone, meaning that deal you’ve been trying to clinch becomes a whole lot easier.
What about social media?
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has announced email is dead, and would be replaced by social media tools. Zuckerberg said email is more suited to how we used to use the internet, regularly logging on and off. Today, we are constantly connected and faster, more fun ways of communication have evolved.
Despite Breton’s ban, email’s reign as king of business communication is not over yet. Social media tools like Facebook and Twitter have only enriched our understanding of instant interaction in work and on the go.
But Breton has raised a valuable argument on emails within the workplace. Digital communication can never completely replace the spoken word. As technology accelerates, personal conversations are decreasing, even though relationships are broadening across the globe. So next time you’re about to send an email or tweet, ask yourself, would I gain more by making a phone call?