Each day, employees engage in just over 108 million emails, with an average of about 112 emails sent or received during their shifts.
These statistics highlight a growing perception among industry experts and CEOs that email constitutes a form of knowledge pollution. For instance, a few years ago, Thierry Breton, CEO of the IT services firm Atos Origin, observed his employees continuously distracted by the daily influx of emails. To address this issue, he took decisive action to control what he saw as detrimental to employee productivity and overall company success: he imposed a complete email ban.
Breton embarked on his unconventional anti-email campaign in 2011 by publicly declaring Atos a “zero-email” zone. His announcement recognized that the company’s extensive data generation was contaminating Atos’ corporate environment and encroaching on employees’ personal lives. He likened his plan to the measures implemented after the Industrial Revolution to combat environmental pollution.
Productivity Studies Show
Initially, industry experts were taken aback by Breton’s plan. It’s unusual for a technology company with over 70,000 employees to abruptly halt a dependable communication method employees and clients rely on. However, this practice is becoming less exceptional. As noted by David Burkus in his recent book, “Under New Management,” companies are increasingly receptive to reducing email usage, even considering complete bans. Burkus observes that these restrictions significantly enhance employee productivity and improve work-life quality.
Before implementing it company-wide, Atos’ CEO had already embraced a no-email philosophy, refraining from internal company emails for at least five years, asserting that it distracted him and reduced his productivity. Despite his radical stance on this essential business communication tool, Breton is a fairly conventional former Harvard professor and former French minister. Thus, company-wide email prohibition is not a rogue, unconventional idea; it is increasingly mainstream, especially when reducing employee communication burden.
Rather than an immediate email ban, Atos pursued a collaboration-oriented approach. Breton established a vast social network comprising approximately 7,500 open communities representing various departments and projects that required ongoing communication on an open platform. As a result, employees were spared constant requests for responses and could engage in discussions at their convenience.
Since initiating the no-email project, Atos has reported substantial improvements, with increased margins and reduced administrative costs. A growing body of industry research supports these positive statistics on the benefits of reducing the email burden on employees.
Researchers from the University of California assert that simply limiting email time and restricting it to specific parts of the day can be as impactful as a complete ban. Additionally, cloud-based collaboration applications prove beneficial, enabling employees to participate in and exit discussions as needed without inundating them with endless messages.