Email is the biggest productivity drain for knowledge workers

From an organizational point of view, information and knowledge that can be of use by other people within the organization is captured and made available. Not as a separate activity, but as a biproduct of a communication process.

Although email has many good sides, we shouldn’t be blind to the many problems that come with using email for work-related communication: information is hidden in the participants’ inboxes and cannot be accessed by those outside of a conversation, the information in an email duplicates like a virus for each recipient it is sent to, redundant attachments consume disk space, and having conversations and coordinating activities becomes messy as soon as two or more people are involved. But the one thing that has made email the biggest productivity drain for knowledge workers is the burden this style of communication puts on the recipient. It is up to the receiver, not the sender, to add structure to the communication and deal with the chaos in her inbox that this lack of communication structure leads to. All sorts of emails end up in our inboxes with no good way to easily filter out what is relevant and what context the email belongs to. It is entirely up to us as receivers to create filters and apply structure to the communication – and this has to be done by every individual who is participating in an email conversation, for all email coversations we participate in! If we combine this with the phenomena of occupational spam, where there is no way for the recipient to opt out of some conversations she has been added to by the sender, the situation easily becomes unmanageable to many people and creates enormous amounts of waste in organizations.


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