Could Your Company Say 'Goodbye' To Email And 'Hello' To Social Networks?

eliminating office email at workBy Mary Lorenz

If you had to guess, what percentage of emails do you get on a daily basis that you really need? And not just, "You have to see this YouTube video of a kitten playing with a crocodile" need but really need?

Thierry Breton, CEO of technology company Atos, estimates that it's as little as 10 percent, which is why he hasn't sent an email in three years -- and why he's now banning Atos' 74,000 employees from sending internal emails. Under Breton's newly implemented "zero email" policy, Atos employees must now communicate with each other through instant messaging and a Facebook-style interface, according to a recent article.

While the policy doesn't apply to external emails with clients and partners, Breton's hope is to increase employee production and eliminate the data that are "fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives," according to In lieu of emails, Atos employees use an internal Wiki to communicate by contributing or modifying online content, as well as an online chat system that allows video conferencing and file and application sharing.

The end of email as we know it?

Unlikely as the move to eliminate workplace email might seem, the effort might be part of a larger trend. Atos isn't the only company using alternative tools to replace internal email in an effort to eliminate the clutter and headache of junk email and increase production. In a recent blog post, editor Josh Smith says his company has eliminated internal email in the past year. Instead of sending email, employees use Yammer -- an internal social network similar to Twitter -- as their primary means of communication. "Yammer lets us send messages to specific users, the entire team or as a private message to multiple recipients," Smith says.

But because Yammer "will occasionally not update in real time," Smith says the company also uses Google tools supplements. Google Docs, for example, is ideal for collaboration on bigger projects, letting employees share and edit documents in real time; Google Talk helps team members stay in touch "for short one-on-one conversations"; and Google Voice enables employees to answer text messages by phone or computer, route phone calls and record calls for later reference.

More and more companies today are using internal social networks to encourage better employee communication and networking. More than 50,000 companies worldwide use Yammer's services, while a similar paid service is cfactor, which Starbucks and Pepsico use. Some companies have even built their own social communities, such as IBM and Best Buy, with their Beehive and Blue Shirt Nation hubs, respectively. It's rare, however, to hear about organizations that are using these tools as a replacement for email.

While email systems in the workplace probably aren't in danger of going extinct any time soon, as alternative tools become more streamlined and easier to implement, we may see more companies follow the example of Atos and Perhaps your company is next.

Mary Lorenz is a copywriter for CareerBuilder and contributes to its employer blog,

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