Solving Email Overload With A Company-Wide Ban

The CEO of a large European-based tech firm hates email and wants his 74,000 employees in 42 countries to stop using it. Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos, wants his “zero email” policy to be in place within a year-and-a-half. He told the Daily Mail only 10% of emails turn out to be important and that “email is no longer the appropriate tool. It is time to think differently.”

TechCrunch writers have a long history of trying to solve email overload. MG Siegler quit email for a month earlier this year and wrote about it when his experiment ended. Michael Arrington has discussed his email overload problem and how it’s an opportunity for an entreprenuer. We covered Gmail Priority Inbox which helps you focus on the important emails. I wrote about the 3 sentence email concept. We’ve also written about Shortmail, which tries to keep email, well, short. And there have been many other posts too.

But, none of these attempts are as drastic as Breton’s company-wide plan. He says one of the big problems is people switching to ‘useless’ emails when they were working on more important tasks. Also, he complains “It is not right that some of our fellow employees spend hours in the evening dealing with their emails.” That’s clearly the standard practice in Silicon Valley and the start-up world.

Breton’s solution is employees should spend more time talking directly to each other in person or on the phone. And he wants them to use real time messaging tools, saying the chat tools on Facebook would be better than email.

This is not the first time Breton has preached against email. Back in February, he told an innovation conference his firm would be a “zero email company” within three years. A writer at Computerworld suggests this might just be an elaborate PR effort for Atos’s IT service business, and he might be right.

I also wonder what happens to the 10 percent of emails that even Breton admits are important. What business opportunities and improvements might be missed with a zero email policy? Yes, many of us really hate email overload. If email served no useful purpose, we wouldn’t use it. But that’s not the case, and a company-wide ban sounds like the wrong solution. It will be interesting to see if Breton’s ban really gets put into place and how the company then performs.

If Atos is serious about this, they might start by updating their own website. Their contact us page lists several email addresses.

[Image: olly/Shutterstock]