How organisations use email has been a hot topic recently with news that the CEO of Atos (one of the world’s largest telecommunication companies) is planning to eliminate email within his organisation over the next 18 months.

At the same time, One Poll research revealed that a third of Brit’s emails go unread every day. What’s more, the average office worker spends over 21 minutes a day searching for information they’ve seen, but cannot find.

These latest statistics, combined with Michael Stephens’s recent article “Is Email Dead?” illustrating that the average office worker receives 80 emails a day, suggest that a plethora of information exchanged via email, simply disappears into the abyss.

I wasn’t surprised to read that of the 36 emails Brits receive each day only a third of them are ever read. Some emails are outdated almost instantly, accompanied with information updates, requests and quick-fire questions that simply change and evolve rendering a series of emails unimportant or even unnecessary.

According to the One Poll research, the time spent searching through email (21 minutes a day) equates to the equivalent of two working weeks per year at a cost of £1,248.51 for each employee.

The cost to UK firms demonstrates and quantifies the damage email overload can have on a business – irrespective of the size of your team, company or project. I have long questioned whether email, while a critical part of how we communicate with colleagues, is really the most efficient way to capture project-related communication.

Most of us prioritise those emails that are critical and demand immediate attention, relegating the others until we have more time. Unfortunately, if this latest research is to be believed, it’s not always possible to find that time (which anecdotally is my personal experience).

There is no doubt that face-to-face communication is king, but in the context of capturing work-related communication to facilitate collaboration or create an audit trail, it too has a few weaknesses. Who can remember every detail about that great idea from the water cooler chat or owns next steps following an adhoc conference call?

So what is the answer? Forrester research found that the majority of knowledge workers surveyed see the potential value of infusing social networking techniques in the workplace. I‘m not suggesting that we abandon email entirely, it’s still effective for many types of communication.

It’s been proven to be a relevant communication method for the last 40 years, but social networking tools should not be underestimated. Their intuitive nature, demonstrated by how easy Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc, are to use, allows for real-time collaboration that is more in line with the way people naturally work.

The way we work is changing. Generation-Y want collaborative workspaces and access to the latest and fastest technologies, preferring tools and equipment where they can share, comment and collaborate naturally.

The advantages of these new tools and management methods are also beginning to be realised across the knowledge worker spectrum. A significant part of a person’s work life consists of managing requests from peers, multiple bosses and small, unstructured projects. This is not something that can be effectively managed by email alone.

Getting rid of email may not be practical or possible, but we can’t ignore the way social media encourages collaboration and facilitates meaningful dialogue.