It’s a long weekend here in the United States, meaning office workers, at least, get a three-day break from the dreaded meeting. We wanted to take this time to offer up an impassioned defense of … email.
Hear us out. It’s conventional wisdom that meetings are killers of productivity and morale and happy work environments. So why not write an email?
We know email has its drawbacks, too — it’s hard to manage and riddled with spam. But as work moves ever more online, it’s superior to meetings. Two inbox zeroers and one Chaos Muppet drowning in notifications — see if you can guess who’s who! — tell you why.
Ram Iyer: Do you love meetings, or do you just hate writing?
Back when I used to smoke, I also used to work at a publication that had frequent and immensely unproductive meetings. Most of our team of over 20 people would just sit by quietly for an hour while someone droned on about something.
If you’re counting the person-hours wasted, each of those meetings wasted an average of 20 hours that could have been spent doing actual work. They were unnecessarily stressful, too: I found myself desperately wanting to smoke after every single meeting, and I wasn’t alone.
Thankfully, that hasn’t always been the case. I’ve been fortunate to mostly have worked in companies that fostered a culture of just communicating via email or messaging. But in hearing my friends and ex-colleagues complain about work over the past couple of years, I noticed a trend: As the pandemic sent everyone home, meetings became ever more frequent to the point that people found them getting in the way of their work.
I’ve asked this question often over the past couple of years: If it can be an email, why isn’t it? Why are people so driven to speak when they could write an email and save everyone’s time?
I think I finally have a theory.