The story of 40 thousand unread emails

The story of 40 thousand unread emails

Since the advent of this digital communication tool, we have been receiving and sending an incredible amount of email. Its role in external communication, especially in B2B and B2C, is not so much in question at the moment. On the other hand, it has become rather "worn out" for internal corporate communication, especially since the availability of other digital solutions, which are mainly app-based.

"This day has come, and to be honest I was looking forward to it. Last Thursday morning I woke up to a gloomy morning and left early for an event in Kapolcs. The period between 6-8am is always critical, that's when 80% of the newsletters arrive. I was just in Székesfehérvár when my phone vibrated several times, I felt it was happening. Of course I didn't touch it, I was looking at the navigation, but the first thing I did after stopping was to check. And it happened…” - writes Tamás Barathi, founder and CEO of the Blue Colibri App, in his LinkedIn post on the occasion of reaching the 40,000th unread email inbox. Then continues: "I remember the previous milestones: 1000..., 5000..., 10,000. A place, a feeling, maybe a pleasant memory. I always tried to control the growth, but it was impossible. I managed to stay at 15,000 for a week, but later on I let it go...".

The story of the email

Tamás Barathi is probably not alone in this peak, as the number of people with accounts and the number of emails sent and received has increased exponentially since the advent of email.

The first email was sent and received back in 1971. Ray Tomlinson of the BBN sent the first message over the network and initiated the use of the "@" sign to distinguish between the name of the user and the name of the user's machine. By the way, the two machines were next to each other, according to the Wikipedia entry.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the use of email became commonplace in business, government, academia and the military. With the advent of webmail (a form of e-mail in the web era) and e-mail clients, e-mail was almost fully available by the mid-1990s, and by the 2000s it had become a widespread means of communication and messaging. An important milestone was that, with the popularity of smartphones and the development of apps, real-time, instant access to email became a reality in the early 2010s.

As a point of interest, it was Queen Elizabeth II who sent her first email in 1976, through a closed system, and then in 1983 the first Internet email arrived at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. The US President Bill Clinton answered a question to the Swedish Prime Minister by email in 1994.

Email: its numbers are growing exponentially

According to research by Statista, the number of emails sent per day is growing steadily, from 269 billion emails in 2017 to more than 376 billion emails in 2025. In terms of scale, this means that

2.4 billion emails are sent by humans (or robots) every second!

The number of email users is also growing: from 2018 to 2019, the number of email accounts increased by 100 million to 2.8 billion around the world, while by 2025 it is predicted that there will be more than 4.5 billion email users worldwide.

Daily number of emails sent and received worldwide between 2017 and 2025 (in billions)

A pile of email is a growing problem in the workplace, too, while it still has justification 

"I often think about the role of email in our lives and work," Tamás Barathi continues in his post. "Do we even like email? Or is it a necessary evil? It's for sure that we didn't write so many emails by hand and typewriter in the old days, and they all had meaning. We were happy to read them. Nowadays... If I open an email and see that there are a lot of paragraphs, I can hardly bring myself to read it.

Or how many times we are listed in CC, maybe BCC. Why???? Is it for me? Do I have to answer? Or did someone just want to show that someone else is writing to someone else, it's good to know about it? But if I get 300-400 of these a day, when can I process it?

And doesn't it give you a stroke if someone uses email as chat and types in a word or a fragment of a sentence? Well, I do... It would be easier, faster and more transparent to do that in any chat application".

In our previous article, we discussed that a quarter of users reported "frequently" skipping emails from employers, especially those aged between 33 and 44, according to a survey.

That said, the author says that email has not yet been abandoned, with an overwhelming 71% of respondents saying that email was the preferred method for receiving non-urgent and routine employer information.

It is also interesting to note that email was typically the least preferred option for employees when it came to receiving recruitment or training information, with only 4% of respondents considering email to be the best choice. For training and onboarding processes, messaging apps (48%) and conference calls (26%) were the top two choices among employees. These channels allow for a higher level of personalisation, are ideal for training and to boost engagement.

So what is the role of email in the life of companies now, how long can it be the official internal communication channel?

"I understand that as an official channel of external communication this will not change, but in internal communication we are now forced to do it mostly because of internal rules. Today, email is one of the slowest communication processes and the slowest online format," says Tamás Barathi, who also makes a comparison, as a kind of indication of the scope and frequency with which it is worth keeping email in internal corporate communication.

"We will send out a new policy by email, with a longer introduction (or nothing) and an attached document.

We ask our colleagues to open and read it.

And we think that since we have sent it out, we can wash our hands of it from now on, because we have informed everyone, there is proof of that.

In addition, the colleague will either download it or not, but if one downloads it, it will be on a hard drive, on a particular desktop or even on a phone.

It's difficult to keep track of who has read it, and from the employee’s side I can't keep track of which one is the current one, because I can't filter the emails if they are always sent with different subjects..."

"I upload the policy to the structured document repository of the communication platform. I will generate a flagged information notice, in which I will embed the policy in a scrollable pdf format.

Targeted to those who are affected, the info goes out and they receive a push notification. I insert a feedback button that the employee can press to confirm that they have read through and even acknowledged the contents. I can also set the button to be active only after the page has been scrolled through.

I will briefly explain the process to colleagues. I can see in the system who has already done it.

I can set up automatic warnings that appear at certain intervals as push messages to users who have not completed the process.

I can view the policies in the system in a structured way and by validity."

"But with new types of communication platforms, we have the chance to reach 100% of employees, and we can do it through their own phones, in very simple user-friendly formats," explains the CEO, who sees this tool as a particularly powerful solution in a non-desk worker environment, because in many cases "email has not even entered the evolution of internal communication, because companies have introduced some kind of installed display self-service system, text message service or communication platform, or used Messenger or Viber groups without any special permissions, rather than generating an email corporate address for everyone".

according to Tamas Barathi

of course, email will not disappear from internal communication, but will have to find its new role, and has to be implemented into integrated and complex corporate processes.”

You need to work out how often and for what cases you will use it. I can think of it very much as a kind of complementary channel at the most, and very much as a summary to help the other platforms work".

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