We all use it, and we all have too much of it.
So why do businesses keep on using email to communicate within teams?
Email is an inferior form of internal communication.
Direct messaging systems like Slack are better, faster and more effective.1I reference Slack as it is the market leader, but other systems like those mentioned here work just as well.
Stop using emails internally, and save them for your customers and vendors.
Why Email Is Terrible for Your Business
If you’ve read the business hierarchy of communication, you know that email ranks as the least urgent and least important form of communication.
Email should not be used internally for a number of reasons:
- Most people do not know how to manage their inbox correctly and have hundreds (if not thousands) of emails just sitting there.
- It is annoying to be CC’d or BCC’d on an email that you really don’t need to see.
- It is hard to extract data from an email and work out if it’s a task, a note or something you can ignore.
- You often have to read through replies of replies of replies to follow what’s going on in an email thread.
- Sending an email to the wrong person happens all the time. This is because most email clients have an autocomplete function for names and email addresses.
- It is hard to prioritise important client or vendor emails if you’re buried in internal emails all day.
- Using email internally conditions people to hate email as they kind-of feel productive using it, but really they know it’s just wasting their time.
You can also think of it this way. Email replaces traditional postal mail. Would you mail a letter to someone in the same office as you? 🤔
The solution is to replace internal email with other tools like direct messaging or project management platforms.
How to Replace Email With Direct Messaging and Other Tools
Rather than provide you with an SOP for how to replace internal emails with other tools, it is easier to show you with examples of common office situations.
Let’s get to it.
Replacing a company announcement or team email
Some managers and business owners like to send out “announcement” emails to keep their teams updated about company news or happenings.
These can be replaced with:
- Short announcements can be broadcast to @everyone in #general on Slack.
- Long announcements can be posted as a blog post entry in the company wiki and shared with everyone there.2i.e., Confluence or Tettra.
Asking a team member a question
When one team member needs to ask another a question in your office, what do they do?
Traditionally this would have been one of:
- Walking over and asking the question.
- Dialling their extension.
- Emailing them.
In a modern business, you can do away with all of these, and just direct message them on Slack.
If you need to ask one person something and notify someone else at the same time, ask the question in the appropriate Slack channel and @mention whomever needs to be notified as well.
Hey @jan, where can I find the latest P&L files? CC @sam @mary
Having a group conversation with threaded replies
Group conversations should not be had over email. You end up with a long email chain with various people on CCs and some people only replying instead of replying-to-all and it becomes a big mess.
A better and faster way is to have this conversation in a channel in Slack.
You can even set up a once-off channel, have the conversation, and then archive the channel afterwards.
Replying to one or more people in an email thread
Another confusing aspect of using email to have threaded group conversations is that some people only want to reply to specific people and you then end up with multiple email threads on the same topic.
You also end up with awkward situations where you reply to the wrong email, and someone sees something they’re not supposed to 😬.
An easier way to do this is to use your direct messaging tool, have the discussion in a channel with all participants and use the built-in threading function to have these side chats.
Or, for better privacy, direct message the relevant parties one-on-one.
Working out meeting times
You should never need to use email to work out meeting times.
Between the checking of individual schedules, working out timezones and availability… it becomes a huge mess.
A better way to do this is to have a calendar system set up for your company (say in Google GSuite or Microsoft Office 365) so that everyone’s availabilities are accessible.3Yes, you can set up your calendar to show your availability without revealing your specific event details.
This way when an internal meeting needs to be scheduled, the person sending the invitation knows when people will be free already, and timezones are automatically calculated.
Collaborating on or proofreading a document
Documents should not be passed around on USB keys or via email.
Unless there are specific legal or privacy reasons, all documents should be cloud-accessible in something like Google GSuite or Microsoft Office 365.
These office suites will already have built-in collaborative editing functions.
For standard operating procedures I recommend that these go into a wiki system.
If fine details need to be hashed out, a Slack conversation or quick call with screen sharing can also help.
Task and work updates
Updates on specific pieces of work should not be sent over email.
They should go into the relevant system, whether it is a project management tool like Asana or a CRM like Pipedrive.
Note: Relationship managers and consultants call these “file notes”.
Forwarding notifications and information
This may be the one exception where sending an email internally is justified.
Sometimes you will receive an email from an external party and it needs to be redirected to someone else on the team – fair enough.
But in a lot of cases, the data can be extracted from these emails and input into the relevant tool or system instead.
- A response from a client should be logged as a file note in the CRM, not simply forwarded to the consultant.
- General information should be copy-pasted into the wiki and shared with everyone.
- Really important announcements should be summarised and @everyone pinged on Slack.
- Notifications like bookings or new orders should be piped into a dedicated room in Slack using Zapier or a direct integration.
Handling meeting agendas and minutes
Meeting agendas and minutes should not be created in Word documents and emailed around before a meeting.
They should be stored in a centralised location like the company wiki and shared there.
Attendees should go in and update their agenda items in the wiki before the meeting.
A nominated scribe can take minutes during the meeting, and the meeting organiser can share these minutes with everyone after the meeting.
If necessary, reminders can be sent via Slack for the agenda, minutes and any action items.
What To Do Next
Stop using email internally.
Just stop it.
If you aren’t set up on Slack, Google Hangouts Chat or Microsoft Teams yet, get set up.
And when you absolutely must use email, practice effective email management.
- I reference Slack as it is the market leader, but other systems like those mentioned here work just as well.
- i.e., Confluence or Tettra.
- Yes, you can set up your calendar to show your availability without revealing your specific event details.
Photo by Carol Jeng.