Does Anyone Check Email Anymore?

I don’t check my personal email every day.  I probably don’t even check it every other day.  The lack of attention I give to my email accounts, outside of work, helped me to realize that email is dying a slow and painful death.  As email has begun its decline into obscurity, the question has become; what’s going to replace it?

In a professional setting, email still has a pretty strong foothold, but other applications and tools have definitely started to spring up.  Top among these new tools is Slack, and while it hasn’t completely replaced email, it is definitely making strides to make email obsolete.  In the personal email arena, the decay in email usage is much more profound.  Most of my generation has a personal email account, but we rely more on text messaging to communicate.  However, I was surprised to hear that many of the kids I volunteer with (14-18 year olds) don’t bother with email at all and most don’t even have a personal email account.  Instead, the kids prefer to communicate via text message, but also through social media direct messaging tools.

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Why is Slack slowly replacing email in the professional world?  Taking a quick look at the problems with email and the efficiencies with Slack, it’s clear to see why so many are flocking to the three year old software.  According to Radicati Group, the average office worker sends or receives approximately 122 emails every day.  That’s about one email every four minutes.  At some point email users become numb to email which can effect workplace efficiency and effectiveness.  Slack works much like social media or even text message.  Companies can set up channels on Slack for all of their departments; one channel can be created for the marketing department, one for procurement, one for finance, etc.  If a conversation pertains to a certain worker, they can be tagged in the message just like on Facebook.  Slack allows for transparency in the workplace.  If a worker isn’t copied on certain email conversations, they are often left out of the loop on discussions and may not understand why certain decisions were made, which can lead to resentment and confusion.  With Slack, conversations are open to all members of the particular channel.  This allows for quick and efficient communication and keeps everyone in the loop.  What makes Slack unique and a huge time saver over email is the ability to create a bot and add it to specific channels.  Slack bots can be programmed to respond to simple questions like company financials, meeting updates, and lunch menus, saving time and money in the process.

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While Slack seems like the perfect tool to replace email, there are some issues that are preventing it from taking its rightful place as the king of office communications.  For all of the effort Slack has put into making its platform the platform of choice among businesses worldwide, the interaction on Slack resembles text messaging or social media conversations.  For this reason many companies have dubbed it too unprofessional in its user interface to be implemented at their offices.  In addition, because Slack has a very text message feel, workers often find themselves using the platform to send gifs and videos, and to conduct unprofessional conversations.  Lastly, Slack is marketed to millennial workers, so it’s hard to get workers from older generations to fully adopt the platform.  Even when full adoption takes place, it can be hard for non-millennial workers to understand the use and benefits that Slack provides.

Personal email is shifting at a much faster rate than professional email usage.  According to a study by App Annie, people aged 13-24 are spending 3.5x more time in messaging apps than those over 45 years old.  Not only is this age group more likely to spend time in messaging apps, but they are less likely than other age groups to spend time on mobile web browsers or email.  As these younger users become adults, it will become increasingly important to shift marketing strategies from email to messaging apps.  Facebook has noticed this trend and has been working and continues to work to integrate B2C and ecommerce tools into its Messenger and WhatsApp products.

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Is email dead?  The answer to this questions is clearly no.  While email isn’t dead, its usage is definitely changing.  It will be interesting to see if and how email reinvents itself in the coming years to capture the younger generation and compete with Slack and other professional email alternatives.

7 comments

  1. drewsimenson · ·

    Wow, this is a super compelling case for using Slack. I’ll share that we tried using Slack on my project, which involves collaborators across five different Universities. If this had been mandated by our Leadership for everyone to adopt universally, I could see it really taking off. As the experiment went, it was largely unsuccessful because only a few of us were giving it a real honest try. While you have sold me on taking another look at Slack, I am not yet convinced that email’s demise is coming anytime soon. I do notice these days that people are less serious about checking and replying to every email that hits their inbox, which makes sense because we all get so many more emails than we used to. But email still feels like it carries weight and is the best way to send a correspondence, especially when we are talking about B2B or B2C communications.

  2. ItsUlker · ·

    I used Slack extensively during my summer internship, and I love all the things you listed about it. The channels were organized just like you described, across different departments, with additional project-based channels or even thematic channels “just for fun”, which served as a great place to get to know the other employees and team members with shared interests. I think Slack’s main advantage is the fact that it is instant. While people rarely reply to emails right away or even when they see them, waiting until a later time to compose an answer, Slack makes it easy to answer the question in a quick, much less formal manner – and the ability to ask follow up questions makes the whole exhcange much more seamless and becomes a huge time saver. At the same time, we still had to use email extensively for external communications, as most clients and customers wouldn’t be allowed in the internal communications on Slack. Besides that, I would say the only other advantage of email over Slack is accountability and trackability of the communication and important documents – while you can search for both in Slack, the sheer amount of exchanged messages makes it very difficult to find the particular thing you need, while email threads are organized by topics and subject lines, with all the attachments remaining in the context of the communication as well.

  3. katherinelgold · ·

    Great post! I use Slack at my internship and I’m a huge fan of it. It’s really interesting to see that younger Gen Zers don’t even have email accounts. It seems crucial for life organizational purposes in general–especially when applying to college. However, I often wonder how email is still a primary form of communication after so many years when it has so many clogged up inefficiencies. Ulker brought up a great point about how the trackability of important documents through email is still more efficient than through Slack. And you outlined great reasons why some offices are hesitant to use it.

    One thing I’m wondering, which even I haven’t discovered with Slack, is whether you can communicate easily with people outside the office like clients. I’m CC’d on so many complex email chains, and I wish we could convert those to Slack. I’m just not sure how that would work yet.

  4. I used slack when working for a startup, which felt like the right setting. I was working with 3-4 millennials where everyone was stretched thin and we all need to know essentially everything. The organization proved to be really helpful for finding info quickly. I feel like if this was used in another office setting, it might be awkward. Office etiquette can be challenging enough and with a text message like communication, it could be a source of confusion. Additionally, with a larger organization, I wonder how this may become overwhelming. In general I think a substitute for email is necessary and Slack has proven to be a great way to communicate. Great post!

  5. Informational post! I had heard of Slack and knew a little about it, but haven’t used it personally. It’s interesting how technology comes back around in a new and improved form. When I started out working in finance ten some odd years ago, AOL instant messenger was still very much a thing for use even when communicating externally. Based on what I know about it, Slack is like the next evolution of group instant messaging.

    I think what we eventually will see (maybe not quite at the same scale as messaging) once the technology gets fast enough is a Slack but for video conferencing (assuming it’s not already a thing?), where you can seamlessly add and drop people based on relevance to the discussion. I can envision a future where a CEO can quickly video conference with his/her entire accounting or marketing teams at the press of a single button.

  6. Great post. I have never used Slack before but you do make a compelling argument about it and its prominent usage/marketing towards millennials. While text messaging and SM messaging tools are a way to connect, they are very much informal. I actually do find myself checking my emails – BC and non-BC ones every day, but the reason I check my non-BC ones is just to get rid of all the junk and spam quickly before everything piles up. I still find using email very purposeful and professional, but I would like to see other substitutes and forms of communication develop that might be perhaps less formal.

  7. aecharl · ·

    Really interesting post – and informative, too! I haven’t ever worked in an office that uses Slack but of course have heard about it from others who have. I enjoyed reading about it in your post. I look at my personal e-mail just for the purpose of staying on top of deleting the daily e-mails from retailers, etc. for whom I have signed up (probably by accident…) over the years. We used G-chat when I worked in DC and I found it really effective having people communicate with you in real time, essentially. Bosses would G-chat us when it was time for a meeting or just to touch base. It had a much more personable feel to it than receiving an e-mail!

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