Inbox Zero or Zero E-mail?

Email is like oil; we’re all addicted to it, but it can’t last. Can cloud-powered unified communications platforms step in?

If your inbox is crammed with unread emails, flagged emails and others in folders you’ve never opened, this is for you. If you’ve ever sat at your desk and hit the refresh button on your email inbox, this is also for you. The likelihood is that you suffer from two common problems; the first is threatening your productivity at work, and the second is a habit that indicates a dangerous addiction to email. If you constantly check work email on a phone during the evening, you already know how dominating email can be.

Workplace obsession

We’re all obsessed by work email; the Radicati Group reports that the 108.7 billion emails sent by businesses each day will increase to 139.4 billion by 2018. That doesn’t make it right. Of the 4.1 billion email accounts worldwide, how many get to the hallowed Inbox Zero? The killer statistic for business is this: workers spend 40% of the week dealing with often irrelevant internal emails. That’s a lot of wasted productivity, and it;s time that could be better spent collaborating with colleages.

‘Dark art’ of Inbox Zero

Most office workers will continue to struggle with email, but the dark art of Inbox Zero isn’t necessary because outside of the business world, email has already been replaced. The increase in non-business email usage is slowing, with the 87.8 billion personal emails sent each day estimated to grow to just 88.3 billion by 2018. Instant messaging (IM) is responsible for this slowdown, with the likes of Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, SnapChat, LinkedIn and Skype all with millions of members, none of whom have a productivity problem. If they’re under 20, users of apps like these are unlikely to even have an email address, which is increasingly seen as something for older people.

Perpetual messaging

There is a radical solution; forget Inbox Zero and try Zero E-mail. The argument here is that real-time messaging means far fewer wasted hours, and it’s causing a boom in cloud-powered messaging and workflow interfaces for the workplace. These enterprise cloud communication tools bring together the tech behind IM, group chat and online communities into a group messaging application that runs across entire businesses. There are dozens of these platforms now available, from Convo and HipChat to Trello, Salesforce.com and Yammer, all of which allow not only IM and chat, but also the sharing of documents and working together. Users of such platforms claim they’re faster, more collaborative, and integrate well with third-party apps. Those that get to use these platforms have killed-off email at work. Or have they?

Drag factor

The email-haters can’t move on completely. However successful these unified communications platforms are proving, nobody can abandon email completely because everyone else is still using it. That’s not going to change anytime soon; clients and some employees will still use email many years from now. Tele-commuting is on the rise – 4.2 million people now work from home – so any unified communications platform had better be flexible enough to include them. Platforms need to be mobile, too; Litmus report that 48% of emails are opened on smartphones and tablets.

Cloud-powered email

For all its faults, email is ubiquitous. It’s a trusted source, and a reliable way of sending and receiving messages. It’s changing too, with cloud-powered innovations like Apple’s Mail Drop and the brilliant Boomerang scheduled messaging plugin for Gmail. Email is open-source and democratic in the way that most unified communications platforms are not and, besides, email will not be replaced for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to kill it.

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