Email has dramatically changed the workplace, reducing the amount of paper correspondence and diminishing face-to-face interactions. The debate as to whether the changes have been good or bad continues, but either way, email has impacted daily life in many workplace settings. For those who appreciate quick correspondence with little wait time, e-mail makes life easier. For others, email has reduced the personal connection they feel by interacting with colleagues, clients and supervisors face-to-face or through handwritten messages. Email is a powerful form of communication that often increases productivity, but it can result in an emotionally disconnected work environment.
A practical and environmentally friendly impact of email in the workplace is reduced paper usage. Not only are there fewer letters and documents sent by paper mail delivery systems, but electronic storage has made it easier for companies to keep electronic, rather than paper files. The convenience and popularity of email has even made it possible for some companies to go completely paperless. Email correspondence means fewer trees are being cut down, thus conserving natural resources. For some companies, email also means reduced expenses because paper consumption can exceed costs necessary to install computers with Internet connectivity.
Email makes it easy to communicate with internal co-workers, outside clients, out-of-town business associates and international customers quickly and effectively. According to Bright Hub PM, email allows you to send a document anywhere in the world within a matter of seconds, increasing the speed of communications manifold. As a result, businesses can reach more clients, sell more products, generate more interest and communicate with colleagues quickly and frequently. This rapid correspondence time increases productivity and reduces the amount of time necessary to print documents, address envelopes, attach postage and physically deposit paper mail in drop-boxes.
Electronic communication gives workers a sense of independence. Before email entered the workplace, executives often dictated letters of correspondence and had secretaries type them up. Then, the executive had to proofread the document, sign the hard copy and give it back to the secretary to address and mail. Email allows workers at all levels to create and send correspondence independently -- as long as the employee can type. If a worker has a suggestion for a project, he can drop a quick email to his boss. If a manager needs to schedule a meeting, she can send out an email to all members of her group. Email gives you the opportunity to communicate with colleagues and clients whenever you want, even if they're not available for a face-to-face meeting.
Even though email allows you to communicate quickly, frequently and efficiently, it's not as personal as a handwritten note or a face-to-face conversation. Since it's difficult to convey tone in an email, a recipient might misinterpret your message, leading to an unwanted misunderstanding. It's easier to express the intent behind your communication when you're looking someone in the eye or creating a handwritten message. Forbes states that a handwritten note allows the writer to shut out distractions and focus on a particular person, sincerely expressing appreciation and acknowledging strengths that person contributes to the team. Email can make it too convenient for co-workers to cancel meetings at the last minute, avoid face-to-face discussions and send messages that are void of feeling or emotion. Electronic communication is fast, but it can also lead to social disconnection, making the workplace feel cold and impersonal.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.