First off, a couple of statistics.
- You could climb Mount Everest twice in the time the average person spends checking work emails each year.
- Every single day, 70 billion work emails go unopened.
These two stats, which came to our attention as we were planning our company strategy, illustrate just how outdated the email culture has become – and why we’ve decided to ban email for all internal communication.
Mobile Jazz is a niche digital technology company which needs to optimize its processes to survive. So we’ve decided to make our company an email-free zone and use our project management software, Asana, for all internal correspondence.
In this article we’ll explain why we made this choice, and outline the key steps we’ve taken to achieve it.
We’ll tell you:
- Why email is no longer fit for purpose.
- What’s so great about Asana (and other team collaboration tools).
- The impact we’ve seen since switching over.
The Problems With Email
Early on the history of Mobile Jazz, we decided to reevaluate all our internal processes. We realized that, if we were going to compete with bigger rivals in our industry, we’d need to get all the one-percenters right.
One thing we started thinking about straightaway was the way we used email. It just seemed so inefficient, so contrary to our approach to business. So we began looking into this and identified several key problems.
The first is that, quite simply, there’s far too much email. The average person receives between 90 and 120 messages a day, depending on who you read. All those inbox pings create constant background noise, distracting the reader from core activities.
Then, once you’ve checked the email, you’ve got to switch back on to the task you were handling before. This is easier said than done: every time we read an email, it takes us 90 seconds to recover our focus. When we spoke to our team, they agreed that the emails were breaking their concentration, which is an absolute no-no for engineers and designers whose work is all about rhythm and flow.
Finally, there was the issue of precision – or lack of it. When you get an email for a task, it’s often impossible to find the deadline, the key milestones and the names of those responsible (if there are multiple people CCd). Factor in the added problem of vital attachments getting lost in back-and-forth chains and you see how unhelpful email can be when you’re trying to manage a project.
So, as an experiment, we decided to completely ditch email for our internal communications and use a project management tool instead. We tried a couple of different packages before settling on Asana, which we found was best for managing large amounts of information and processes. For every internal message which would previously have required an email, we told the team to create an Asana task instead.
The great thing about Asana is that we can create a clear assignee for each task, as well as a due date for completion. We also add followers to keep relevant people informed – we find this is far clearer than CCing someone in an email – and we can attach relevant files, such as the Google Doc we’re working on. Unlike an email, there’s no chance of the attachment being lost when someone replies.
Another great thing about Asana (and we’re sure this applies to other project management tools too) is that you can split a big project into individual sub-tasks, each with its own assignee, followers and due date. That way the back-and-forth is significantly reduced. Each part of a project is limited to those directly involved, and you don’t have people being copied in on messages which don’t affect them.
As each task (or sub-task) continues, the participants add comments on its progress. These comments can be viewed by everyone, both assignee and followers, and everyone knows where to find them. There’s no chance that key information will be buried at the bottom of a chain; it’s always available for everyone to see. If the deadline needs to be extended, we can do that with a single click, and everyone receives notification.
World of Change
The benefits have been huge. Since we stopped using email we’ve noticed that we don’t get side-tracked anymore, and the old days of endless back-and-forth are long gone. Not only that, but the whole mindset of the company has shifted. We strive to deliver actions whenever we can, resolving problems with as little debate as possible.
What’s more, everything is visible. Even if someone hasn’t been assigned the main responsibility for delivering a task, everyone can see that task and contribute to it. A mountain of research shows that transparent companies are more likely to have high levels of engagement and better staff retention levels. This is definitely something we’ve seen at Mobile Jazz, and our email-free culture is at the core of that.
Of course, we’re not suggesting that all companies should follow our lead. After all, we’re a tech company and new technologies come more easily to us than they do to some others. However, going email-free is a decision that’s worked really well for us and it’s key to our ability to punch above our weight consistently.
If you’d like to read more about our company culture please check out our company handbook by clicking here.