People Think the Best Collaboration Tool Is Trusty Old Email

Posted by Meghan Neal

 
Contrary to popular naysaying, email isn't dead—it's evolving.
 
So concludes a recent survey from Harvard Business Review, which found that spite clogged inboxes, spam mail, and "reply all" snafus, the majority of people trust email as a tool, and are satisfied with it.
 
"It’s becoming a searchable archive, a manager’s accountability source, a document courier. And for all the love social media get, email is still workers’ most effective collaboration tool," HBR writes.
 
Researchers surveyed 2,600 workers in the U.S., UK, and South Africa last year, and found 70 percent of people were satisfied or very satisfied with email as a tool, and only two percent were unhappy with it.
 
If the top 10 collaboration tools, email came in first, second, and third place.
#1: Email to individuals
#2: Email to lists
#3: Email to teams
#4: Teleconferencing
#5: Video/Web conferencing
#6: Instant messaging
#7: Facebook
#8: Business collaboration tool
#9: LinkedIn
#10: Twitter/Microblog
Facebook and Twitter for collaboration? Seems like a stretch. But I must say, I'm surprised instant messaging didn't make it higher up on the list. In most companies where I've worked, IMing made up the vast majority of communication between coworkers, and now that group chats and Google hangouts are more commonplace, it can be just as group-oriented as email, plus much faster and less formal. But I digress.
 
So now you're wondering, what about mobile? Well, researchers looked into that too, and found that most people still send and answer emails at their desk, but a good chunk of emailing—40 percent—is done outside the office, during off-work hours.
 
No doubt that's a big part of why email has stood the test of time, even in the face of the recent firestorm of productivity tools and apps. Questions of work-life balance and technology addiction aside, it's really easy to fire out a quick message from your iPhone while waiting in line for the movies, and get a little bit of a jump start on the next day.
 
Which leads us to the next startling statistic. Researchers found that workers spend what would amounts to an average of 111 business days writing and receiving emails. That's almost four months. So in theory, if a collaboration tool came along to make us more productive by just 10 percent, we could all go take a vacation for two weeks. If only it were that simple.
 

 
Image via Wikimedia Commons