For something that hasn’t even been around in the public sphere for a full 30 years, email sure is doing well for itself. Rumours of its demise are totally unfounded: around 269 billion messages were sent and received every single day in 2017.

Of course, email is not solely a work-based platform, with many users subscribed to emails from their favourite writers or celebrities. It is simply a means of communication between family and friends too, replacing the old-fashioned letter.

However, email is a medium which remains heavily used for professional communication in 2019. Despite the existence of apps purpose-built for messaging like WhatsApp and Slack, email is still considered the primary way to contact someone online. As popular as they are, we wrote about why we think there is a need for a professional messaging service to replace WhatsApp in the workplace.

Naturally, with a service so successful, email must have plenty of likeable and useful features. But, is it really still the most efficient way to go about professional communication?

Some potential drawbacks of email

Zinc lists plenty of reasons why email is not effective for day-to-day workplace communication. While it is important to note that email outreach definitely remains the best strategy for tasks like contacting customers, there are some features which make it worth re-considering for the daily grind.

  • The average worker receives 122 emails per day, with only 38% of them containing important or even relevant information to their job. Some simple maths shows that 62% of time spent reading emails is not productive, and wastes time which could be spent gathering more important information.

  • A danger of sending an important email to someone’s inbox is that it will be waiting there with 121 others on that day, if the recipient is truly the definition of the average worker. They might be stretched for time on that day, so bulk delete or bulk open a group of emails. Alas, your vital email regarding choice of doughnut flavour for next Tuesday’s meeting is dead and buried.

  • According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the average employee loses 28% of the work week to checking emails. This is the equivalent of 13 hours per week. On top of this, it takes just over a minute for someone to get back to concentrated work after checking their emails.

  • Email just isn’t that great for teams discussing complex projects. If you need to go back after a few weeks to check for a certain message, it’s unlikely that you will recall which of the 341 threads that information was in.

  • Deskless workers will make up 72% of the world’s workforce by 2020. This includes jobs like hospital work and utility work. People who do not spend their time in front of a computer are unlikely to check their emails on a regular basis, and will therefore miss out on important information relayed via email. One study aimed to tackle this, and found that job performance increased significantly when information was spread through a mobile-based service instead of email.

  • When an email is sent, there are no read receipts or similar features which allow you to know if the recipient has read or even received the message. If it is something important, this can leave you squirming in your chair as you debate whether or not to send a follow-up to catch their attention.

Perhaps the main thing that makes email tough to use is a weakness that it shares in common with pretty much all other forms of professional communication. This is, the fact that many workers struggle to disconnect from work once they are at home, due to the accessibility of email. They may even be expected to monitor their inbox when they have time off.

According to Forbes, a study found that 38% of employees often check their emails at the dinner table, and 69% cannot sleep without first checking their inbox.

Clearly, this is a situation which can cause anxiety and restlessness amongst employees. However, it must be repeated that Slack, WhatsApp, and other mobile-optimized forms of professional communication create this issue too.

The brighter side of email

Aside from the obvious (but useful) benefits of instant messaging, and the ability to communicate with a colleague anywhere in the world, there are a few others to explore.

  • Email is a free service. Although they may offer better quality, other professional messaging services would cost an organisation a fee.

  • Praise can be a huge motivating factor for your team. Breaking the drab email routine to send a note of appreciation or motivation to a team member could really brighten up their day and help them to work even more efficiently.

  • Due to its non-instant nature, email is perfect for colleagues in different time zones to pick up a conversation and reply at their leisure.

Anyone who talks about the death of email is greatly exaggerating, as shown the sheer number of emails sent per day. It is still the primary method of communication for most professional groups.

However, it does have its drawbacks, and instant messaging services which run with push notifications are becoming more appealing to younger generations. If you are looking to take the step away from email and its alternatives such as WhatsApp, we discussed some alternatives to the popular messaging service.

Email is never going to live through any drastic changes, it is too much of a staple. To make it more effective, we are simply going to have to decide for ourselves when email is the right method to use and when an alternative will do a better job.