By Jon Bradshaw, Managing Director at Portal

A recent report by the Radicati Group showed that business users receive an average of 121 emails a day – and this is set to reach 140 by 2018. Due to its speed, ease and geographical reach, email has understandably become the most widespread form of communication used by businesses. In recent years, however, the burdensome and time-consuming reality of email volume has taken its toll, and has led to a backlash in the area.

A significant amount of the working day is now spent reading and responding to messages, and inbox over-spill is affecting employee productivity and morale. As such, companies must consider the impact that email is having within the workplace, and how new ways of working can be used to respond to staff needs and increase efficiency.

Collaborative tactics

Receiving all communications through a single channel may seem like the most straightforward approach, but this model drastically limits internal collaboration and the sharing of expertise and resources. Instead of fostering an environment of collaborative working, this single-channel approach can be isolating, leaving employees with overloaded inboxes and forcing them to spend a disproportionate amount of time reading, responding to, and managing emails.

As a result, information and expertise can often become trapped in email ‘pockets’, leading to a siloed and disconnected way of working. The downsides of this model are obvious; knowledge and contributions should be encouraged to flow freely and organically across the organisation.

Modern social collaboration platforms can help to achieve this goal quickly and easily. The introduction of cognitive intelligence and analytics technology into email and collaboration tools is becoming a reality, and will change how work gets done by adapting to each user and helping employees to prioritise what's important and filter out what isn't. By integrating smarter methods of communication in this way, cross-functional working can be achieved and a more seamless and sustained collaboration environment can be created.

Changing workforce requirements

As digital devices become more and more central in everyday life, firms are finding that their workforce increasingly consists of tech savvy employees who are skilled at using social media and often work remotely. They no longer operate from a single office spaces, and are adept at communicating using fast-paced apps and collaborative platforms on the move.

This means that modern collaboration tools are well-suited to meeting the needs of today’s workforce. The interconnected atmosphere found on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn now extends to workplaces, with firms utilising collaborative platforms that allow staff to engage as the ‘social creatures’ they are outside of the workplace.

At a time when the competition for skills is high, firms that position themselves as forward-thinking and willing to respond to employees’ needs for new ways of working will increase their chances of recruiting the best talent and retaining the most highly skilled workers. As a result, even though technology and communication methods have traditionally been the domain of the IT department, the implementation of collaboration technology is increasingly being led by HR, as companies address new ways of working that directly target their employees’ wellbeing.

Fostering productivity

The damaging effects of high volumes of email should be seen as a call to action for all enlightened firms; businesses should take this opportunity to overhaul their processes and update their perspective on internal communication and employee needs. Left unchecked, email overload could leave employees feeling like their inbox controls them, rather than being the productivity tool it was intended to be.

In addition to easing the strain of email overload, social collaboration also allows a more parallel and concurrent way of working that connects all employees within an organisation, regardless of hierarchy, geographical location or department. As a result, this approach can help to align business objectives and create a strong community atmosphere very quickly.

Modern businesses need to be open-minded to changes like these, as employees’ requirements – and the technology that is needed to address them – are subject to constant change and variation. It is therefore essential that employers keep up to date with these developments and respond accordingly in order to boost both productivity and employee satisfaction.