Video Conferencing Is Poised to Kill Email, Freeing Employees to Focus Better and Get More Done

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The contents of the first email ever sent were so entirely forgettable they have been, subsequently, entirely forgotten. What Raymond Tomlinson, the author of that first message and the man credited with inventing email, couldn’t have realized at the time is that his first email set a precedent for millions of other “forgettable” correspondences.

Email has been at the center of modern business for decades, which is part of its weakness. The service is taken for granted, leaving inboxes everywhere clogged with ineffective messages, or worse, spam, that disrupt workflow in an office.

Video conferencing, and its ability to match email’s leap across time and distance while adding the clarity and force of face-to-face interaction, could soon replace electronic mail as the preferred method of internal communication.

Meet the New Boss

A Polycom survey found business “decision-makers” expected video calling to soon overtake email and voice calling as the preferred method of collaboration among employees. The projection was founded on a belief that video conferencing enabled better collaboration, greater clarity of message, and led to more effective meetings.

The key word here is “preferred”. Video is simply a better way of communicating than a text-bound message could ever be. Whereas email can be ambiguous, verbose, or buried completely within an overflowing inbox, video conferencing offers the simplicity of human conversation.

A single meeting with expert collaborators via video can accomplish in minutes what would require a trail of emails–assuming the right people are even getting CC’d into the right messages and are able to reply quickly. While the full potential of video conferencing is still yet to be realized, its most valued asset may be that it doesn’t have the serious drawbacks of static email.

Help, Email Is Killing Me

Research carried out by the University of California, Irving, found that the constant barrage of email at work increased the anxiety of employees while decreasing their productivity. The study found that staff regularly interrupted themselves to check their incoming mail, no matter how important their current task.

It also stated employees became frustrated that emails were not quickly responded to or acted upon, placing the expectations of a face-to-face conversation on the cold reality of faceless communication.

The study recommends management bundle emails together to reduce their toll on the workforce. However, doing away with them altogether and replacing them with regular face time, and perhaps a single daily team video chat or catch-up with the boss, could better convey key messages, and leave staff free to go about their core business for longer, more productive periods.

Hear It Once, or Read It 126 Times

The amount of time wasted anxiously checking incoming emails becomes apparent when you consider the number an average person receives each day.

The Radicati Group’s 2015 – 2019 email statistics report finds people send and receive 126 business-related emails a day. That averages out to a flow of more than one every five minutes. If you’re switching screens that frequently there’s little chance of maintaining focus on the real task at hand.

As is ever the bugbear of modern email users, the count of 126 messages is comprised of roughly 10% spam. And that figure is limited only to the spam that eludes the security and spam filter to end up in your inbox.

Radicati projects the number of email accounts owned by the average individual to rise over the next three years. However, some of that increase is due to the fact that an email address is required during signup to begin using any of the emerging email alternatives. A clever trick, indeed.

Read My Lips

The current darling of the new breed of real-time chat services, Slack–dubbed an “email killer” by Time magazine no less–recently added voice calls to its platform, and announced it will soon host a video call function of its own.

Such chat services already carry the capacity to share documents as email does, but with the added bonus of dedicated, real-time messaging, and private chat rooms that eradicate the presence of spam. With video calls on the way to handle everything from brainstorming sessions to company-wide announcements, email may be relegated to becoming merely the basic prerequisite to other, more useful communication platforms.

With this service, staff can use private messaging to convey the minutiae of their daily routine, gather in video conferencing huddles to tackle a project’s key aspects, and get an overview of how their project fits with the company’s larger goals through an all-office broadcast from senior management.

Email may never completely disappear from the business world, but limiting its impact on the day-to-day functioning of an office may ensure staff have time to create something truly memorable.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons user Murray1010 

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