At the Harvard Business Review, Atlantic Media CTO Tom Cochran laments how email actually costs his company much more than he believed, in both time and money.

By calculating average typing speed, reading speed, response rate, volume of email, average salary, and total employees, we were looking at a seven-figure price tag to quantify our email pollution.

The solution? A mix of an open office plan and the adoption of other media:

During the arc of my career, the amount of email noise was often inversely correlated with the availability of alternate communication channels, as well as an organization’s relative digital literacy. I’ve also found that an open office plan decreased overuse of email, since removing the physical barriers to communication dramatically lowers email reliance.

These traits were all present in our outlier group. They had an open and egalitarian office, with no individual offices. Every screen had an array of windows open — Skype, GChat, Campfire, Dropbox, Yammer, and Google Docs — the right technology for the right situation. And, the team was staffed with digitally savvy employees, most of whom have lived half of their lives plugged into the Internet.

This is what a digital office should be.

Read his entire post here.

  • Greg Jessiman

    Potentially, however as the number of employees increases so will the need to rely on digital communication tools.

    More employees = larger buildings, so inevitably we have to forgo face to face in favor of less time consuming communication methods.

    I work in an open plan office, the building has 19 floors. All floors are open plan, however the centre of the building is consumed by 4 elevators. There are two stair wells, one on each side of the floor. Don’t forget the toilets on each floor which consume more interior space, and the copy/printer room. It’s still open plan though, but the size and design, despite its open plan layout actually limits collaboration to a great degree.

    I feel that email overload is far more a cultural & educational challenge than an architectural challenge. However if you have both then your working in a collaboration powerhouse.

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