E-Mail Ban Story Teases, Yet is Misleading

Earlier this week, a big deal was made by the media about IT company Atos, which is banning employees from sending e-mails under the company’s new “zero e-mail” policy.” Sounds pretty bold, and pretty sweet if you’re a person who is up to their neck in e-mails.

I know as a journalist, I spend way more time than I should wading through and answering e-mails daily. Maybe it would be a good thing to get back to good old-fashioned phone calls and face-to-face communications. But then look at the fine print of this story: Atos’ CEO Thierry Breton says the move is for internal e-mails only, among the company’s 74,000 employees. And the alternatives to the internal emails aren’t old-fashioned at all—instant messaging and a Facebook-style interface.

Instant messaging? It’s my opinion that IM is worse than e-mails in terms of taking up time. With an e-mail, at least people on the sending end don’t expect you to answer right away. With IM, people feel you should answer immediately. And when you’re in the middle of an IM conversation, if something comes up and you have to stop typing, people on the other end feel slighted.

Breton says he hasn’t sent an e-mail in the three years he’s been in charge of the company. As a CEO and big-picture thinker, that might be easier for him to do than a more mid-level employee. I’ll be waiting for the announcement that Atos has also banned internal IM communications, too.

—Scott Van Camp