A New World Without Email

Carl Niklaus Wallace
9 min readOct 10, 2021

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Major advances in the world
often lead to major advances in how we do things.

In communication, paper enabled the writing of letters.

Printing introduced books, newspapers, and later magazines.

Then came the telegraph.

The telephone introduced the fax machine.

The digital era introduced the computer followed by the internet that transformed fax to email.

These major advances in the world introduce new and better ways of doing things, so we change how we do them.

The digital world of work evolved to a point where work communication as we know it needs a better way.

email communication belongs to a previous era

Pre-pandemic discussions about dropping email as a communication medium would have been un-optimistic and perceived to be unrealistic. Yet the notion of empty corporate campuses with millions of people working from home would have been much more far-fetched.

Let’s reimagine work communication with a post-pandemic mindset that anything could be possible.

To understand why work communication needs changing, let’s unpack the following email facts:

+ SYNCHRONOUS AND ASYNCHRONOUS COMMUNICATION

+ LOST TIME-AND-PRODUCTIVITY

+ CONTENT OVERLOAD

+ EMAIL ANXIETY

+ SECURITY RISKS — THE TRUE COST OF EMAIL

– synchronous and asynchronous communication

Business communication can be divided into synchronous and asynchronous communication.

Synchronous communication happens when messages can only be exchanged in real-time.

Asynchronous communication happens when information can be exchanged independently of time. It doesn’t require the recipient’s immediate attention, allowing them to respond to the message at their convenience.

Traditionally email was used for asynchronous communication while synchronous communication was done in person or over a phone call. With the birth of mobile apps came the ability to use numerous business and social apps for synchronous communication in the form of chats.

– lost time-and-productivity

Most employees spend 23% of their working day on email, sending and receiving an average of 112 emails per day. We get so many notification-based messages through email, that our attention is drawn to our mailboxes far too often. Even when opening our mailbox for one email we get distracted by other mails and end up losing more time than anticipated.

When someone joins a conversation, they are conveniently forwarded a long email thread and instructed to ‘see below’. What could have taken seconds to digest now takes minutes as the recipient has to dig through mostly unformatted, ambiguous email threads full of attachments and links.

Regardless of the focus on the future of work, collaboration, and transformation, the sad reality of most employees is that emails keep them handcuffed to their inbox and distracted from real work.

– content overload

Business communication consists of [ business-critical and project-related content ] and [ notification-based content ].

Currently, in the world of email, synchronous and asynchronous communication exists in the form of both business-critical and notification-based communication. This means our mailboxes are inundated with useless notification-type emails, amongst our work emails, resulting in a massive content overload.

The massive amounts of spam and unread newsletters are making things even worse. This creates chaos no matter how well you organise your mailbox.

Three decades of email have yet to produce a proper solution for stacking and sorting long email threads.

– email anxiety

Email creates anxiety.

Although the level of anxiety might vary from person to person, email anxiety is real.

Email anxiety is a deep-rooted fear of looking through your inbox — coupled with an innate inability not to. Striking any time, day or night, sufferers feel intense anxiety around their inbox — worried about both receiving emails and having to read them. The average employee spends around four hours each day reading and responding to messages — with most workers receiving up to 120 emails every day.

For employees suffering from anxiety, each day is a battle between wanting to be productive and being paralysed by nerves.

– security risks — the true cost of email

Email has occupied the top spot as the number one digital security concern for a very long time now.

When it comes to email security, standard measures like the latest antivirus software will never block cyber-attacks, especially advanced socially engineered attacks.

The exponential growth of email security threats is making it near impossible for IT teams to keep up.

spear-phishing,
whale phishing
or whaling attacks,
ransomware,
and other malware attacks
can cause serious harm to an organisation.

More than 90% of cyber attacks are launched using email, as it remains the weakest link in the cyber security chain.

As a result, organisations face major potential financial loss with every email that enters their mailbox.

We will never be able to fully mitigate the cyber risks around email. To this point, as a defense, Security Protocols have become so tight and aggressive that we will soon be prevented from sending and receiving any mail at all.

– work content is scattered & unsecured

Business-critical files and communication threads are scattered across various devices and the content itself is unsecured.

This creates three problems:

+ Multiple versions of the same files exist across multiple devices and cloud servers, having one version of the truth is simply impossible.

+ Company content is accessible to anyone yet also inaccessible to relevant stakeholders when a person is not available.

+ Mailing files as attachments duplicates the files over and over, creating an enormous amount of digital waste. Digital waste contributes the same amount of destruction to our planet as that of the airline industry. [ Click here to read more about this… ]

+ work without email

Work without email is mostly perceived to be impossible. The general thinking is that email is too deeply embedded in our work lives for us to be free from it. The lack of a new technology to take its place could also be a factor.

We can be free from it — if we change our thinking.

A world without email needs no new solution and no need for replacement technology.

We simply dump email and use the tools we are already using.

+ digital transformation

Companies that have not gone through a proper digital transformation to automate and digitise their operations are burning money without even knowing it. Successful digital transformations would include cloud-based work tools like Google’s G-SUITE, Microsoft’s TEAMS, MONDAY, YDOX, or something similar.

These platforms are used for managing business content and files, projects, and tasks. They generally provide a centralised space for anything work-related that can be accessed securely from any location and any device.

Work communication should happen where the work itself happens, and not be separated from work content as it is with email.

With work and communication in one place, we are not mailing files around. Instead, we bring the people and the conversations to the files.

It is much safer, more convenient, efficient, and free of digital waste.

If implemented correctly, business-and-project-critical conversations happen in one secure place online. The conversations are kept with the content and not scattered across various unsecured inboxes. Access to specific conversations can be given to any stakeholder at any given time during the work process and both conversations and files are safely secured behind very tight digital security.

Most of these platforms will be sufficient for the asynchronous business-critical communication we need to keep.

Notification-based synchronous communication that we don’t have to keep should be done on platforms like Whatsapp, Slack, or Discord, or similar.

what about client communication?

Good question.

The majority of business-critical asynchronous communication is done internally among teams. But depending on the business and industry, clients are included in the conversations. A good digital work tool will have the ability for clients to gain free access for this purpose. Again, keeping all communication in one place, away from email.

With notification-based synchronous communication, it gets slightly trickier as businesses use different chat tools and people within a business use their own preferred chat tools. Thankfully there are various omnichannel messaging platforms that have integrated all the popular chat tools into a single platform for cross-platform communication.

If implemented correctly, people can reach anyone no matter which tools they use.

+ CLOUD vs LOCAL

Cloud offers undeniable cost and security benefits to organisations of all sizes. With the human element being the biggest risk of any local security setup irrespective of its strength, very little is achieved in mitigating the risk. It is time we ring-fence the human element by changing the ‘how’ and ‘where’ of work’ — and this is achieved with the right cloud-based work tools.

The infrastructure behind these tools provides enterprise-grade security to businesses of all sizes without the expected enterprise budgets. Security should always have been available to all organisations and which now it finally is.

This article might leave many questions unanswered which is a good thing, we need to start the conversation and keep it going. I purposefully leave certain aspects untouched as they would be unique for every working environment and will vary from one organisation to the next.

The reality is that the right digital work environment that excludes email will bring down security and licensing cost and will boost productivity and efficiency like never before.

in a simpler world, without email, everything is in its place

+ Files are securely kept in a single version of truth,

+ Business-critical content and communication are safely stored in a central location

+ All stakeholders have secure access from anywhere

+ Notification-based communication lives in chat tools away from work communication

+ Work efficiency and productivity is on the up and up

+ Employees are less anxious

+ The team is more connected than ever before

+ Clients can feel the difference !!!!!!!!!!!!!

+ the big change

As with all big changes in history, this will not happen overnight. The shift to ‘work without email’ is already on the go with organisations reimagining their work communication internally and adopting the right work tools. More and more organisations will start adopting these work tools and communication outside of email will soon become the norm.

Think of faxing — we never pulled the plug on it. We just looked back one day and realised we hadn’t seen a fax in months and then it became years.

The shift to remove email from work communication won’t take any convincing. It will happen automatically, systematically, and without a hiccup.

how are we changing work?

We love solving complex business problems with simple solutions. We believe that growth is fueled by the adoption of simpler, efficient, and agile operational processes and workflows with digital solutions and process automation.

We lead with future thinking, where work-life is in its simplest form.

We centralise work, we optimise operations, and we empower the workforce with the right tools to maximise their performance [ input and output ] in the hybrid era of work.

Please reach out to give me your thoughts on the world without email? I would love to hear from you.

Carl Wallace | CEO
carl@digital-hq.com

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Carl Niklaus Wallace

A forward thinker that solves today's problems with solutions of tomorrow. [ founder of dewly ] - www.dewly.net