“Zero E-mail” Policy to Raise Workforce Productivity

atos ceo

“Zero e-mail” policy? I do support “carbon neutral” company initiatives but the idea of being banned for sending e-mail shocked me! Yeah, I do admit suffering with e-mail information overflow especially if it happened not to open mailbox for a couple of days. But e-mail communication for work purposes is something different, it became so-called “business as usual” and want it or not we keep on sending and receiving hundreds of e-mails every day.

French tech company Atos decided to challenge prevailing work communication by introducing “zero e-mail” policy. The ex-French finance minister and currently the Atos CEO, Thierry Breton, claims have not send a single e-mail in three years. The “zero e-mail” policy aims to solve the problem of internal e-mails overflow when only 10 percent of 200 daily e-mails are useful and 18 percent are spam. During the 18 months 74,000 employees are forced to communicate with each other using instant messaging and Facebook-style interface. According to Caroline Crouch, the public speaker for the company, employees are in favor of the new policy and Atos has managed to reduce 20 percent of internal e-mail in just 6 months.

Company with offices in 42 countries and revenue of EUR 8.6 billion, or $11.5 billion, is looking for new collaborative social media tools to eliminate e-mail style internal communication. At the moment employees actively uses Atos Wiki for online content modifications and Atos Office Communicator for online chatting, video conferencing and file sharing.

Even though I do like “zero e-mail” initiative, the idea of instant messaging communication and utilization of social media platforms at workplace is not new and most large scale and small companies active use it. Hence, the most important is an idea of adopting new technologies to communicate and share information. Therefore, the worth mentioned is Google failed project, Google Wave. Indeed, Google’s real time messaging platform integrating features of e-mail, messaging and twitter, was a good example of technology move needed in knowledge society.

Finally, the idea of “e-mail neutral” work environment has a number of limitations to consider. First of all, e-mail communication cannot be totally replaces and even Atos policy target only internal communication allowing employees send e-mail to clients and business partners. Like it or not but sending e-mails is cheap, simple and does not require any technical knowledge. Here comes technical issues, introduction of any new platform to use might be difficult for some employees and will need training. Next, instant messaging traffic is difficult to control and video conferencing would be of little usage for cross continental teams that work in different time zones. Information sharing raises a question of privacy control, namely, what can be disclosed and who control.

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