July 20, 2020

Inbox Detox

Inbox Detox

Lessons learned after a month of trying to replace email with other forms of digital communication.

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Electronic mail emerged in the 1960s and, unlike 8-tracks or Woodstock, remains heavily in use today.

Even as usage of persistent chat and video conferencing tools surges, email remains the most popular form of business communication.

For many, that reliance is out of necessity--whether technological or cultural--rather than personal preference.

So, we wondered: What would a month without email look like? We decided to put it to the test.

In this episode, we recap the results of that experiment. With us are digital communication experts and fellow email-deflectors Dominic Kent, Director of Content Marketing & Communications at Mio, and John Yarbrough, Sr. Director of Communications at Lifesize. 

We talk about:

  • How we did based on the data (emails received vs sent)
  • What tools we used to replace email
  • Challenges and wins
  • Our takeaways and new habits

Follow us on Twitter: @thedwwpodcast 

Email us: podcast@digitalworkspace.works 

Visit us: www.digitalworkspace.works 

Subscribe to the podcast: click here

Reference Links:

Click here for Dominic's article
Click here for the episode transcript


Ryan Purvis  0:00  
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In this series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field story from the frontlines. The problems they face, how they solve them. The years they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took, they'll help you to get to the scripts for the digital Express inner workings.

John Yarborough  0:30  
This is john Yarborough. I'm the Senior Director of Brandon communications for life sighs

Heather Bicknell  0:36  
Hey, john, thanks for joining

Dominic Kent  0:38  
Morning guys. This is Dominic from Meo. You may recall me from a previous episode that I recorded with Ryan and Heather a few weeks or maybe a couple of months ago now, where I challenged myself and Ryan and Heather jumped on board and I've somehow managed to get john on board as well. Well, we were going to do our very best not to really reply to any emails for the month of May. So this episode is a washout of what happened. I've got some numbers to share with everybody. I don't know if everybody else here has looked at anyone else's numbers mine mine were pretty low, I think because my email behavior has been trimmed over time should we say so? I'll just give everyone a heads up on the numbers. So I received 239 emails in May, which I now realize is alarmingly low compared to everyone else in the world, it seems only replying to 27 of those. So that's 11% of the email actually replied to, which I think is a good effort for what I thought was my original experiment in my head. I just wouldn't reply. So 11% is quite a good one there. I then flick to John's numbers and my 239 emails look pretty measly. 5737 emails in May of which by Day Two, john eudicot more emails than I received in the whole month. So I feel for you they're my friend.

John Yarborough  2:07  
Yes, I I like to think that I have learned to cope with email effectively, but I can't say that I'm much good at it. I think that a decade plus of being a, you know, somebody that lives in an inbox, it's much easier to say than to actually, you know, actually break from your connection to your inbox being part of your day so and Dom I was looking at your numbers, with a lot of envy throughout the entire month of May.

Dominic Kent  2:37  
I think everyone is accustomed to coping was the word that you use. I think we do cope with email. And that's kind of what I wanted to bring out of this experiment. Are we just coping with it or is it? I don't really have an answer for that. Moving on to Heather's numbers. Heather still got four times as many emails as me But no, nowhere near as many as John's either. You got 880 Three new applied to 129. So that's 14%. That's around about the same as me. Just moving back to your percentage, john Rosa glossed over that you only applied to just under 7% of your emails. So even though you got 4 million times more than me, you actually applied to 50% less. So we're on about the same basis. We get a lot. And Ryan, you got 3200 emails in May, and you replied to 396, which coincidentally is only to less than john, you're around about the trial percent mark as well. So the lower of the four emails received, applied to a higher percentage, which perhaps says that the emails that we got were more relevant or needed or apply more perhaps.

Ryan Purvis  3:52  
Yeah, for me, a lot of it was notifications and I was turning those notifications off as like often which sorry, If you looked at sort of the growth rate or do a decrease over the month, as well, I was trying to reduce my numbers by average number per day, which I think I slightly did. Which is turning off unnecessary notifications, because I think I started off at 212 on the first day, and reduce down to about 62. Good day by the last day,

Dominic Kent  4:25  
that's gonna go in

Heather Bicknell  4:28  
a number i thought was interesting. So, you know, in addition to measuring how many emails we got, per day, how many we replied to how many we didn't reply to we also had this kind of more of a subjective category of emails that were deemed not for us or just unnecessary. And I noticed ami had the highest percentage of emails in that category.

Dominic Kent  4:52  
Yeah, so I think so I got 70% that I I decided it was either not for me or I didn't need now As you look at my stats, you'll see after about the 10th day, they almost disappear. And that's because while I was documenting them, I decided that actually, these are may be newsletters that I have historically subscribed to and just don't read. And I've been too lazy to press the unsubscribe button. Or they were communications I was copied in on but again, I probably didn't read I didn't need to be copied in on them. So I did something about those. I told those people look, I don't need to be on this. I haven't read the last four bulletins you've sent me or whatever it might be. And, and that seemed to work you so have my 165 emails that I deemed not for me. Over 100 of those are in the first 10 days I think.

John Yarborough  5:44  
I was curious looking at just the experience that everyone had during this experiment, how successful everyone was deflecting email to other tools, I will say as someone who works for a video conferencing company here Generally perceives my organization as one that's very good at collaborating and other, perhaps, you know, more more sophisticated, more modern tools like video as opposed to, you know, email, which I think is still broadly perceived as the old way of doing things. The data was, you know, it was illustrative of that's not in fact, necessarily true. When we meet on video, I, you know, if I would have number of meeting minutes over video and our, you know, wash up it, you know, it's it's very significant, and we use the medium a lot. But I'd say that for me, one of the key insights here was, some things still feel like they need to be documented via an email. And sometimes it's distribution lists that are the reason maybe it's tied to a process, like a word workflow technology like JIRA that our team uses tremendous amount but was curious if you all felt that it was as easy just deciding you're going to use something different than email and just night and day, being able to flip that switch and have that be the process moving forward. For me, it was and I think that was because

Dominic Kent  7:13  
that was kind of my secondary goal. My best guess is my primary goal of this experiment. It was my thoughts were that these conversations that were happening via email were already happening somewhere else, be in a physical meeting or remote meeting, and slack and teams and whatever it was my my feeling was that these emails I was getting were already happening somewhere else. So for me, it was literally night and day, email or a messaging app. And like what you said was you work for a big video conferencing company, john, I work for a messaging company and I, I realized that we aren't particularly good at just using those messaging apps in the right time. Well, I've recently written a blog on kind of Best Buy practices for using message threads and things like that so that you don't have a poor messaging experience and you don't revert back to email or you don't have to call someone and interrupt them when really should be chatting in that thread. So I think it was, it was easy for me to do so because that was my primary goal. But it was also fairly easy because those conversations were genuinely happening in other mediums already.

Ryan Purvis  8:26  
Now, what I found interesting about it was that it was expected is that the there was always a generational issue with moving away from email. So I would reply to someone somebody sent me an email I would reply then when teams I'm probably gonna try i think i think i wrote down my former as phone them first call, get hold of them, then send them a message to try and answer all the emails, requests that way if I could. And what I found funny about it was the minute I'd find them then we chatted about it in the solution warranted follow up, the follow up would be an email As opposed to responding back in teams or calling me back with the, the answer took a good two, three weeks just to get. And I didn't tell anybody I was doing this challenge. So it took a couple weeks for guys to actually start replying to me on team because I just ignore the emails and reply on teams. Most for the most part, I think WhatsApp was the other fallback that I had for responding to it. But it was definitely a generational thing. The younger guys tended to respond on teams and the older guys tended to default back to T mail.

Dominic Kent  9:33  
Did you find that within a team's meeting, a video conferencing meeting, regardless of which solution we're using? Did you find that during a meeting, if anyone had to send you anything, they would email it to you even though they're also using teams at the same time. I recently spoke to Steve Goodman on my UCM influence podcast. And he mentioned we we rather laughed at that the incidents were Someone is having a physical conversation or a virtual conversation or an audio conversation on teams, and someone said, Hey, I'll just send you this link, which is great, because then you can see it within the video call. But they've emailed that link instead of putting in the little chat in the app you're using

Ryan Purvis  10:17  
too many times. And sometimes I can understand it because of the 40 min email that was sent with from someone else, then that kind of made more sense than sending me a link to a document. One of the things that I did while we're doing this was set up a project with an external company, as a team's channel with all the document management and all that set up as well. Which has been great for me because obviously, I can navigate there quite well and I'm comfortable with it. But some of the other guys internally don't have that comfort. So they keep forgetting to go look in that channel for the files or go into SharePoint to look at the documents and expecting an email. Still to keep in contact on what's going On the project, so there's there's a switch that needs to happen, which is unlearning the habit that needs to happen where you stop looking at your email for the answers and says, you know whether things should be secure look or that things should be.

Dominic Kent  11:14  
habit is the key word there, I think, isn't it I recorded another podcast this morning with with a user of unified comms, which is someone that I have never had a user on my podcast before I normally have vendors and experts within the space. So this was actually a customer and we were talking about the new slack Connect, which is, which is our topic at the moment. And I asked him will will slack Connect kill email for people that just use slack right, and they know that their suppliers or customers also use slack? So in my mind, there's no need for email if you are that a specific use case of which I could fit into if I chose to use slack instead of teams for some clients. And I know slack clearly think that way Otherwise, they want to roll this out right? But he said But it's very much his habit that people will do look on their email first, will they expect an email? Like you just said, I don't think that will change. And I think that goes back to what you mentioned, Ryan about the generation thing.

Heather Bicknell  12:14  
So for me, there was a critical complication to this experiment, which is that my company's is Microsoft Teams is our primary chat tool. But we have retention period setup. So one on one messages only last I think it's 30 days. And then inside teams or channels is just a year. So if you want anything, if anything's important enough to persist, pass that you might as well email it because then you know, it's going to be there. So for me, that was also part of the equation, right? If I wanted to potentially be able to dig something up after a month, I might need to email it.

Dominic Kent  12:52  
I think that's a choice thing on part of your company and probably every company in the world, isn't it? If you really wanted to ditch me And that was one of the problems you would upgrade those retention policies and spend the money on teams instead of spending the money on email servers and all that storage and things like that. It's just Which one do you want? And like we said, I think habit is you expect your emails to be there forever. But it's it's a choice that we choose to archive or or no longer store conversations on teams.

Ryan Purvis  13:26  
Yeah, because our thought is you can store a lot of that stuff in your SharePoint environment. I mean, if you save in the email itself into a file, because as soon as you pick it up, anyway, so this way, there's a few ways to solve that sort of

John Yarborough  13:41  

Ryan Purvis  13:42  
using different different parts of the stack.

Dominic Kent  13:45  
Yeah, it'll get saved somewhere at the end of the day, regardless of what it is. You just need to choose what you save where you save it to. And then I guess it becomes a bit more technical when you're setting up your search function to look in this folder. Ivan all over the place, and it's a new job for the IT manager and one that he or she probably doesn't want, because they already know how to set it up for just email, right.

Ryan Purvis  14:14  
And this comes into some of the new stuff with with Power Apps where you can set up flows or what they were quite useful flows, or what they call now to do certain things. So you can strip out attachments, for example, and store that straight to OneDrive. You know, where you can have others sort of, you know, other flows and categorize mail and potentially that also stores them in folders. So you can make it automatic, it doesn't have to be, you know, human intensive

John Yarborough  14:39  
to other factors that I thought were fairly significant, at least in our usage of teams relative to life size for video, you know, sort of synchronous conversation or a real time conversation and then email is as a global company. There's a clearly a social contract that we've all without ever discussing together. We We've all decided to abide by related to when we send communication to one another based on the business hours of the person receiving it. So, we are a global company we have a little more than 400 headcount split across every timezone in the world virtually, if we're communicating from where I sit in our headquarters in Austin, Texas, our virtual headquarters as it were at the moment with our colleagues and Europe or in Asia Pacific, we will very easily transition conversation that's happening in teams when both of us are working within business hours to email and and my best summary as to why is that we are trying to be respectful of the person not receiving notifications during off hours, whether it's evening hours with their family, or, you know, obviously when when folks are offline, getting sleep. I'm curious if that's something that in your experience could be changed in terms of policy or better use sort of communication at the HR level to get organizations more comfortable using teams or another, you know, real real time collaboration tool for sort of your your offline asynchronous communications channel as well, because I do think that email still today is perceived as the less intrusive tool where you can send an email whenever an idea pops into your head, and there's no expectation that your colleague is going to see it. The second that you press send, they'll see it when they get to it the next business day perhaps, and they'll get back to you. So it's seen as as a way that you can connect continue to communicate without being obtrusive, or or you know, putting your colleague down if that's not perhaps when they're online and working.

Dominic Kent  16:48  
Interesting that you use teams for what I would describe as a more instant messaging. You mentioned the term real time collaboration that didn't you john, I think it does. Does that stem from, I guess, historically, people in life size used instant messages like Skype for Business, perhaps which you could only use synchronous synchronously for synchronous chat. Whereas with teams teams is designed to extend that experience to a synchronous collaboration or a synchronous chat. So what my use case for teams and for slack and for WebEx and for all those platforms that are out there, and I think I mentioned this last time I was on this podcast and I certainly mentioned mentioned it every, every episode of my podcast, the collaboration tools that I use teams slack or WebEx, depending on depending on what day it is. They, they they're so critical for my working day because I use them asynchronously. So all of my messages go across whatever platform it is, and I know that I'm going to come back to some notifications overnight because I'm in UK The majority of my team are in Texas. So there's a there's only two or sometimes three hours where there's overlap where we're working at the same time. So, because we use those tools asynchronously, which is where I think you guys aren't necessarily doing that. That that's critical. One during my job well, and communicating well, the really, it's, it's the reason why I can work for a company in the states without adhering to the timezone that the rest of the mayo team is in, because we we respect that there is that that lack of overlap, so we do work asynchronously.

John Yarborough  18:40  
And Dom for you, was that always the case? Or did it require a conversation with colleagues that this is the way that to establish some rules regarding how you were going to use various tools and platforms? Very good question. I think

Dominic Kent  18:55  
that's that's probably where businesses fall down. They don't ask The question or nobody tells them and they just carry on using teams as they were using Skype for example. In my case, I think I set the precedent it was I'm only going to work until five o'clock UK time because because I want to write I when I first started working with me and I was a freelancer so I set those terms when I joined me full time, it just it just naturally happened. So people knew that if they messaged me at 6pm, local time, they weren't going to get a response. So they didn't, why would they?

John Yarborough  19:32  
Yeah, Ryan, something you mentioned a minute ago, really resonated with me regarding generational divides and tools that people prefer default to for communication. And, you know, it's something I think about a lot particularly in our current climate with an entire team working remotely and you know, some context we announced a merger and the first half of March and two days after announcing the merger, our entire organization was sent, working remote and we continue to work Remote today. And so as a team lead, you know, we have a number of colleagues that are new to the team that we're still, you know, forming relationships with. We have other colleagues that we've worked with some time, but obviously in a very different way than we did, historically. And I have found in this experiment was a nice forcing function to do so. I'm having conversations with colleagues even, you know, senior leaders and executives, about what the right method of collaboration is for them has been clarifying for me and and, you know, my experience with those conversations is some people use the tool that they use just because that's the tool they've always used. And I think it is very much a it's informed by legacy tool. So if you have teams but you were using Skype for Business prior, you're going to use teams in a way that's most familiar based on how you use Skype, perhaps even you know, missing some opportunities to advance the way that you're you're leveraging the platform. And that was it. I think a key learning for me as you know, really two things. One is no collaboration tool is going to be a replacement for good communication between colleagues, you have to start at that level and understand one another and continually revisit topics around, you know, what, what is what works for you, what business hours, are you working, when I want to share something with you? How would you like to receive it? And that has to work for both parties. And then, you know, similarly, I think there still is a huge education divide. And you know, a lot of it, I think, has to do with generational divides. But I think it also speaks to the rate of innovation in this space. And there are new things. I mean, Dom you just spoke to slack feature that I haven't had a chance to even look at, I think I saw some news coverage, but don't don't know much about that, beyond that. So I think there is kind of this larger role for it or whoever the you know, the application leader is with an organization to decide what matters And when new innovations are released, you know what the impact is on the organization, what they're going to standardize on how they're going to address processes. Otherwise, it's just another feature. And you know, features nobody use or you know, nice for headlines, but not an app particularly valuable otherwise.

Ryan Purvis  22:19  
The thing about Skype what I found, while we're dimensionalize companies, what I found with that is that, because that's what the guys were used to let it become used to the corporate environment, and Henry Ford discovered it was Lincoln and the sort of flavor tools. They find teams very complicated. And under this concept of teams with within teams, even more complicated, so that almost completely ends the the wanton need to explore it further, because it already looks too complicated. Let's stick with Skype. In fact, if we weren't forced to move off Skype I think we would have stayed with with Skype for a bit longer. Just because there was a comfort level we've just been able to have a conversation Then instant messaging only Not, not a long winded conversation, which is over multiple days. Whereas with some of the newer, let's say, younger members, it's, to be fair, it was comfortable to have a conversation. And we had a team of Africa where there were two hours ahead of us at the time. So I'd come in or get online and have messages from sort of 5am our time, because they've started at 7am their time. And we have my flurry of things to handle via teams first, and then I wouldn't even check the email because I already help handle most of stuff teams. Whereas, you know, if you're in the middle of the sort of generational gap, you're dealing with some stuff by email, some justifies messenger or some messenger you end up with with the overload, of trying to get everyone to communicate, which ends up just having more calls because you're trying to bridge the divide in some senses. There's also the cases

Dominic Kent  23:59  
Where you use these tools for different purposes, either through a habit or legacy. For example, when I worked at a staple, stable logic, career consultancy, we used to use teams for Channel based working and collaboration because it was new. And we were we needed to, we need to know about it right. And we were going into businesses and talking about how they would transform their business with this new fancy communication technology. So we needed to now to use and we started to work that way. And it was great. But we were still using Skype for Business for our meetings. And I'm sure that's the same in a lot of businesses where maybe use WebEx meetings because WebEx was a meetings platform historically. And now you've got these businesses using teams because they were using Skype for their instant messaging. And they're using WebEx teams as well, because WebEx meetings evolved into that. So I'm sure there's a lot of switching between the meeting too And the instant messaging tool. And which one do you use for just one to one calling, it's all a bit of a chaos, which is obviously the problem. We're trying to solve a meal. But if you go further than that, it's it's multiple apps that do the same thing. But people use them for a specific thing, because of either habit to or legacy. And I don't, I don't see that. I know it can change. I've done it. And we preach it. I mean, but I don't see the majority of people changing because they they know and love WebEx meetings and they know and love or loved Skype for instant messaging so that they're using teams because that's the next version.

Ryan Purvis  25:40  
Well, sometimes I think that this is also driven by what the what the culture has become, and what the company allows the culture to become. So, you know, having a multi platform environment means that people are used to having different tools for different jobs and ask maybe where teams try to become multifaceted and have a new zoom in To say it's similar. But I haven't spoken to anyone who said to me, oh, I'll send you a message on zoom. It's always accordions almost zoom call. Whereas teams kind of bridges that gap a little bit. What I was what I found that didn't work in this, try and get rid of email as a communication mechanism as when you when you're a project with external people, in different time zones, you do things like project updates, or trying to send out reminders and stuff like that. Not all of them were on teams in within the organizations and therefore weren't comfortable connecting into or being invited to teams chat, because I need to get it involved. And I think that's also part of probably part of the problem is is the level of user enablement or education as well to to using

Dominic Kent  26:51  
to say, collaboration tool. What were they using right?

Ryan Purvis  26:57  
Some of the muscles got for business. Wanted to think on Do you ever? Yeah, I think it was, I think those are the two main bodies, karma with the other one was, but it was also something in that in that space.

Dominic Kent  27:12  
So you've got platforms there that you can integrate or make interoperable. But I guess the people you're talking to aren't the people that have those admin rights? And maybe if you need to buy something, they don't have the spending memory, though.

Ryan Purvis  27:26  
Yeah. And this adds complexity. You know, these are mostly seafarers, or, you know, business business SMEs, who don't have any technical knowledge or, or you can hear the hesitation when you're like, Oh, I know, it's gonna last I try to get involved here. And you're just making their lives more difficult by trying to make their life simpler.

Dominic Kent  27:46  
It's the upfront effort, isn't it? It's Yeah, you know, deep down that your life is, I don't know, this is the way that I think about things anyway, if someone sells me at all, or I read about at all, and I go I clearly need that because it's going to save me 14 minutes per hour, which actually in the long term equates to a lot of working days per year. Right. So I know that I need this. And I know that I should put in that upfront effort. However, do I have that spare 15 minutes right now to install it and configure it? And what happens if it doesn't become 15 minutes? Because actually, I'm not very technical. So it might take an hour, and then I have to pull in someone else. And even though I still know, I'm gonna get all those working days back by year, I don't have that time right now. And I think that's probably the biggest problem. Exactly, exactly. I mentioned that we were going to talk about some scenarios that worked and didn't work when trying to move people away from email, as is there anything that comes to your mind, john, that worked for you or perhaps just was a complete failure?

John Yarborough  28:51  
Well, I'll start with the failure because I think that was, that's the easier one for me to answer. So as I mentioned a few minutes ago, we Use JIRA and perhaps ways that are less common. So JIRA is a are sort of workflow tool of preference for marketing deliverables not to think traditionally used more by product engineering organizations for tracking, you know, bug fixes and, you know, product releases, but we built a fairly extensive sort of help desk process. So my team can fulfill requests from every department across the company and when they have need for, you know, marketing's or whether it's, you know, data sheets or changes to our website, it really, you name it. And yours truly is the point of contact for all of those requests. So when we started this project, my first inclination was, I'm going to need to solve for all of the JIRA notifications that I've received to my inbox and it's just an automated thing that makes ensures that I See them? So yeah, the first day of May, I turned off those notifications and told myself every day I was going to check them natively on the platform. And I think by day three, I was starting to receive questions from colleagues. And if I had, if something had happened to me, because I wasn't being responsive, they I was not getting to things as quickly as I would have otherwise. And it truly became a problem and a lot of my email volume. You know, it's, it's a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is, is my, the numbers of emails that I've received are artificially inflated by that type of automated process. And I and I have, you know, sort of worked out ways to manage it. And you know, I spend a half an hour every morning and every evening dealing with the inbound requests, and that, you know, is perhaps not the most efficient process but it works for me. And, you know, really the key insight there is if you are going to change the way that you work, you must have Have a new solution in place before you do so, to make a change away from email, simply for the sake of reducing your email volume without, you know, equally satisfying solution in place, just is going to create pain for yourself. So that was my biggest failure from this experiment was not identifying a new solution to replace email for all of the workflows and notifications that I received. on, you know, the the positive end of things, I would say it was much easier than I would have anticipated to simply not engage with emails that you know, weren't pertinent to my job or that some you know, as a communications professional, often, were asked to consult on things that, you know, it's, you know, not not necessarily a business requirement, it's more of an opportunity to engage. And I found that instead of jumping into email threads in the moment, we've all been on these emails where you know, a simple question turns into a 2020 emails. long thread, I found that I could reserve my feedback till a one on one over over live size or the next team stand up for an all hands meeting. And it was just as effective, I didn't miss the opportunity to engage or share my point of view. I simply took it into a different format where it was more conducive to sort of exchange of ideas. And then I find I will say that I have found that email is the least effective tool for having a conversation that is more than a quick quick question and response. I had a manager once tell me that by the time you're hitting reply a second time, you're better off having a conversation with that person in person or in current climate over video. And I tend to ascribe to that I think that's generally a good rule is if you can't convey your point sufficiently in the first email or you haven't yet, you know, sort of gotten that alignment between you and colleagues. After, you know, first couple emails, you're probably better off having a meeting or a quick discussion to work through your differences. I know there's sort of meetings have received this stigma where everyone perceives them, you know, oh, it's another meeting or I spent too much time in meetings. You know, last night we're big believers in a good meeting. I think that, you know, the the meeting itself is highly useful. Now, we've nobody wants to be in a non productive meeting, there were an agenda isn't sent in advance, and there's no clear action items stemming from it. But often, you will do better off speaking with folks live for 15 minutes and you are going back and forth and email over a period of a couple of days until someone finally agrees that they are going to be accountable for whatever the next step is.

Heather Bicknell  33:48  
So john, one thing I like about chat tools and even email is just having that documented thread, you know, of what we talked about and just any next steps in Just being able to reference it back anytime, right? So I was just wondering how do you replace that sort of documentation component of being able to pull up emails and reference anything that was said?

John Yarborough  34:13  
It's, it's such a great question Heather and it's probably the one that I get the most in my I have countless friends that are fascinated by my job and working at a video conferencing company and the motivation for most of them and wanting to understand it is that they have a real resistance to video, you know, that I think we take for granted, you know, even talking about teams and slack and you know, even for those of us that live on Twitter and Social Media all day, we're still the minority, you know, there's we're still at the, you know, sort of the the tip of that spear we'd be for mainstream adoption, where everybody's using them. And you know, it's not something that's pervasive across every industry yet. But for video, one of the things that has been truly freeing for me because I'm a big believer in documentation, I think that the person that prepares a meeting agenda and the person that communicates next steps after a meeting, or jet is generally the person that is best positioned to drive projects. I think that you know, the five minutes before and after are so critical to making sure that was a good use of time. But for me and with you know, our technology, one of the things that's been most effective is recording my video meetings and I record a large percentage of them even if the conversation is meant to be more informal. in there, there are two primary benefits. One is just the pure documentation and the ability to refer back to exactly what was said exactly what was agreed to. And and I found that while I type relatively quickly, and I like to think that I'm an active listener, there's nothing better than an actual recording if what you care about is accuracy. And then the second piece of it is not feeling As though I'm having to split my focus between this person who is speaking, and my notes application has been very freeing and that I will say it took a lot of repetition and and sort of switching and forcing myself to switch my normal behaviors to address the tool was going to capture the conversation and then refer back to it versus typing it as somebody spoke and then having sort of my personal notes as my reference material following a call. You know, but I think for most people, that's probably going to depend on how you learn if you're more of a visual learner, you you may be totally fine in the moment listening and recording for those that need to capture it in notes for it to you know, sort of imprint in their in their memory, they may find some combination of the two is more effective, but that that has been freeing for me me working within video conferencing on text is that, you know, I really rely on the technology to take some of that manual work out of documentation as well as sharing, you know, the other nice thing about recordings is if something meaningful occurs, you know, Sarah, within the discussion that others would benefit from, you now have an asset that can be shared out. And, you know, I'd say, I don't have the statistics in front of me and say, research is showing more and more that, you know, most people would prefer to watch back a video versus reading through a long document was as hard as that is for those of us that are in that content marketing space. I think that you know, the written word, particularly when it's lengthy has become something that a lot of people, you know, don't bookmark, but they perhaps never actually digest in its entirety. So that's another nice benefit is having something that hopefully statistically is more likely to be consulted. If you feel like it warrant sharing,

Dominic Kent  38:02  
maybe I'm a little bit biased because my job faithfully is writing long articles, right? So if people aren't doing that any more than then maybe I should switch to becoming a full time podcaster or video producer. But I, for me, personally, I am the opposite john, and I know everyone is different. But I I would much rather read a bulleted recap of the genuine highlights then watch back a video of the meeting I was in or a webinar that I couldn't get to or whatever it is. And there was an example within me actually where someone bought a bought a couple of our social media posts, we were looking at optimizing them to get more clicks and things like that. And they sent me a 10 minute loom video walking through their process of what they've done. And it was, it was it was great. However, the most important three things were literally and within the last 20 seconds of this 10 minute video, and come the end of it wants to know to one off, I thought, Well, why don't we open with that? Why didn't you rearrange the video, which obviously isn't the point of loom loom is to record a real time video and send it to someone as a helper. But for me, the only benefit of that video was the last 20 seconds of which I could have either skim read an article or an email or a long teens message or whatever it might have been. But instead, I went nine and a half minutes through this video, and then when also that's what we need to do. Yeah,

John Yarborough  39:36  
I think you're hitting on a really key point there, which is it's probably never going to be one at the expense of other it's likely going to be all of the above. And, you know, I you know, Dom and particularly in your role. I think that, you know, it's a perfect analogy, you know, the content consumption, whether you believe that long form or podcasts or short videos are, you know, sort of the prime, you know, primary question, your strategy? You know, I think most of us are always thinking about how do I better satisfy this audience? Or how do I attract a more diverse and broader audience? And I think often the answer is maybe there are other ways for us to communicate, and it's starting with the written recap. Maybe technology can help put together that short recap video with sort of automation pulling out key insights. I think then the future state What's clear, whether it's, you know, life size, or WebEx or zoom or any number of other tools, AI and machine learning will play a major role in how we consume information. I think it's, you know, going to start often with, you know, back and forth conversation and a collaboration tool, or perhaps it's a video meeting, and then technology will help surface the meeting notes on our behalf. You know, I think that we're already starting to see real time transcription of meetings and on automated posts, you know, between a video conferencing service provider into teams or into Slack, you know, the, you know, where you're starting to see real time translation where you can speak to somebody that doesn't speak your native language. And there are subtitles to help provide context in those discussions. And now, a lot of these are still nascent technologies and perhaps don't work as well. In practice, as you know, perhaps, you know, the marketing material suggests, but, you know, I think, Heather, you know, for someone like you that values, the documentation, I think the ultimate would be for you as the user to get to determine how you receive that, right. If you're a visual learner, again, maybe there'd be a video option. If you're somebody that wants the bulleted list, there would be a synopsis available for you too, as well. The key point is that it can't be up to the meeting host or facilitator to have to produce all that content. There must be something behind the scenes that helps automate. Otherwise, I think all of us will only have time in our work days to go from meeting to meeting and writing agenda and recaps, and I don't know that any of us get paid just to do that. So my hope is that we all get the benefits of the documentation without the taxation of having to, you know, write copious amounts of, you know, sort of documents to help keep our colleagues and formed.

Heather Bicknell  42:28  
Yeah, see, but I love those documents.

John Yarborough  42:32  
You never know.

Heather Bicknell  42:33  
Yeah, I think for me, too, it's um, you know, I feel like I'm a much more effective written communicator than just, you know, through a meeting. I feel like I get to my point a lot faster. I think to Dom's point about the sort of three key things coming in and the last 20 seconds of the video. It's like, Oh, yeah, and here's the things that you really need to know. I feel like there can be a lot more bloat sometimes with just speaking versus writing. But Ryan as well, I wanted to get to you on what you feel like worked and didn't work for you in this experiment, because I know you mentioned that kind of throughout your journey. You were you were trying to do more things to decrease your responses over time.

Ryan Purvis  43:17  
Yeah. So the things that I struggled with was getting, as I said, the generational differences to work. Some people that we used to something like Skype to use teams that were quite frustrated with the teams and now that we've been forced to use it there they've adopted a bit still with with some hesitation. I think the other part that that's a challenge for these guys is that teams, there's so many other things as well, you know, it's a typical thing Microsoft does. They bundle a lot of things together with not always thinking about how it's going to be experienced by the person using it. And you know, if you look at something like office, it's gone through a different interface almost every time they release it. This same sort of problem. As I mentioned, the communications with external parties, it's I've got two scenarios, one where I've actually got them using teams as well. And they are quite happy and they're working, and it's all fine. And I'm going to the caveat when they couldn't use teams for the for the, for what I mentioned. So you've, you've always got to find the lowest common denominator that gets people to work effectively. That's it, I do find that to sitting down to writes that feeling of signal to write an email to be thorough. I'm just as good at doing that in teams now. And in fact, I've found that with some of the functionality has been released recently a little bit more conducive to being effective, where you can flag things that are on your list now over time. Whereas I'm doing the same thing and email weapon search folders and flags and you know, category, categorization running to try and find things all the time. So I'm trying to move away from having two systems that do that, too having one system that does that. And I'm hoping that that as teams matures, because that's what we're using at the moment, that'll become more and more focused. That way. I can reduce the number of systems that I have to use.

Dominic Kent  45:17  
I think it's crazy that we're still referring to platforms like teams, as immature or we're waiting for something else to mature. And I think that's maybe the reason why there's still so much reliance on email. because things change rapidly. In the SAS world, that's natural. People make feature requests and companies have to, they have to deploy them, right. Otherwise, they're gonna go and use another tool. And as that competition occurs, more features get added to the platform that that's called an email alternative is changing so much, that you know, email isn't going to change and it is kind of the old reliable use analogy. When I'm not particularly good at golf, but I do like playing golf. And when my game has gone completely downhill, I know that if I go and arrange my seminar, I'm going to be able to hit the ball straight. Whereas every other club my man could have could have gone left or right or left and right in some cases, but I know that if I go to the old, reliable seven aren't going to be able to hit the ball straight. And I think that's that's why people refer back to email, they know exactly how email works. And they're not going to have to read a to read a tutorial guide or watch a tutorial video to use that new feature in teams or slack or whatever it might be.

Ryan Purvis  46:37  
It's funny to use the golf analogy because I was having a discussion with someone this morning. And he's he played this weekend and he's changing his whole strategy sensitive, caring. I think it's 14 clubs you can carry. He's dropping it down to four, because we're having too many choices. He's his game is more complicated, but by reducing it, he's had to focus on the clubs he's good with. And when I say he has to focus Cuz he's he's found that by having less choices, his game gets better because he knows that, for example, you know, he's could do the seven is good with a hybrid and he's got his putter and he's got his image. And he just has to control those four clubs. And I think that's one of the challenges is you've got too many platforms in an organization or too many choices, you're going to end up going back to the ones you trust and for a lot of people trust is email. That's exactly

Dominic Kent  47:27  
that. That's a perfect analogy. Almost. Yeah. There was there anything for you, which particularly worked or didn't work?

Heather Bicknell  47:36  
Yeah, I think for me, I feel like my habits strangely didn't change that much from normal, which is maybe why I still had the highest response rate of any of us even though it was, you know, not that far off at 14%. I think for me, the the thing that helped me cut back was just making it clear to me My immediate team that I do most of my communication with that I was as going through this experiment, and I was going to be sending more messages in teams, and if I send them outside of hours, kind of going back to something we were discussing earlier that, you know, if you're not online, I'm not expecting a response. I'm just putting this here, versus, you know, sending in an email or another form of communication where people might expect to be able to have a delayed response. Right. So, you know, I think for me, it was really more it wasn't as much about the tools but just about communicating with people that, you know, this is this is the way that I'm trying to do things right now. And, like, let's let's try this kind of different way. But I guess I'm thankful that my team already, you know, is pretty used to just using teams for everything so it wasn't too much of a struggle. Some of the challenges I did have, were just some of those persistent email threads that I I never transitioned to using teams or another tool because I was like, Okay, well, you know, this is probably the last email on this thread. Right, but then it would keep going. So I think there is at least one email I had. That just continued going for the entire month of May. And I was like, well, maybe at some point, I should have tried to transition that one. That's something I'd love to get into, too, is, you know, we did this experiment back in May, you know, we're now almost all the way through June, if you can believe it. You know, are there habits that you know, even after we're no longer inputting those email numbers? Are there things that you all feel like you're still doing to decrease your email like things that have kind of become more sustainable habits?

Dominic Kent  49:42  
That's something that I was asked immediately when I mentioned to someone that asked me how it was going or I said it finished. I dropped into it into Twitter chat that I just done this experiment and it was great. I didn't reply to any emails and my life is wonderful. Now, they said Have you noticed any differences? Since you've stopped doing that? My response was, why would I stop doing that? It's great. I've only replied to 10% of my emails, of which I don't have many anyway, because my email behavior is pretty good. What Why would I purposely change what I was doing? So, if I get emails that aren't for me, I ignore them. I delete them. If I get an emails where I don't need to respond, I will actively say Can you take me out of this? It's got nothing to do with me, you you've you've put me on here because you thought I might need to see and I've made that decision that I don't that's a conscious decision. And I think I've unsubscribed to everything else. So my my may experiment will become and for the most part probably was already my normal way of working with email I think

Ryan Purvis  50:48  
Yeah, so so I I want to save sort of pages you don't want me also emails that are just unfortunate cannot avoid because that's that's the preferred communication mechanism from the person sending them but I I still have my sort of first first response is to is to call them, or to just send them a message on teams, if it's if it's that my work better. In fact, that was the point. Sometimes I've copied and pasted the email and replaced the email in teams as a way of sort of proving the point. But it's definitely a better way to go. And I do have these mornings of acid go through and emails that go out and go and unsubscribe and subscribe and subscribe to try and reduce those volumes. And if I can find that information somewhere else, then then that's where I'd go. So in the case of what john was saying earlier about using, you know, getting JIRA notifications, I didn't set that up as a channel. We didn't we didn't use here at the time we use Trello. But the same concept where every time there was a change in status, the channel updated, and I could just check that and see what was going on. Ironically, I couldn't get that to work with some of the martial tools. But I think that's just That's just time and as I say it's an evolving platform or maturing platform because I still feel like it's even though it's partly replace Garp in the Marshall ecosystem. I still feel like Scott had some some better approaches to things and some stuff is still doesn't exist Like, you know, secure recording and that sort of stuff which I know some of the banker friends so complaining about. But yeah, I think it's definitely a way to go to try and reduce the same as you reduce your mail arrive and your debt your house. I think it's the same with email, you're gonna reduce it to the essentials.

John Yarborough  52:38  
For me, it's I think, as simple as trying to be more conscious around my preferences and not being afraid to express to a colleague that I think we would be better off discussing something elsewhere and you know, Heather and Dom and I think even you Ryan although your your volume was a little higher and closer to mind that You know, I think that it's continuing to fight, both reducing email that are inbound so that there's less tax on time sorting through the pile of unread to understand what's important because there is a real meaningful time expenditure just triage in your inbox. But also, you know, Heather and Dom, you know, what you articulated earlier is, you know, you making sure that the emails that you do engage on are meaningful, they were emails that were directed to you and that you have value to offer in that exchange. And I don't think for me, it'll ever be me, you completely eliminating email, but I think it's making it a more useful tool versus a place where you know, folks just can send you anything without really any expectation that you're going to engage. I

Dominic Kent  53:47  
think that's a really good learning point and something to sum up all of our experiences. I think I'm in complete agreement. I don't see email is going away. Because of Maybe external components, either other people's behavior or automated things and bills and notifications and things like that that won't disappear. But for me, the main experiment was a complete success. I've gone down from what was not really a lot of emails to even less. So. Good. Good use of time for me, I think,

Heather Bicknell  54:20  
great. Well, I know we need to wrap things up. And I feel like we've kind of ended on a good point here. So Dom if anyone wants to kind of get in touch with you or see what you're up to, what's a good way to do that?

Unknown Speaker  54:33  
Send me an email.

Dominic Kent  54:36  
I'm on Twitter at Dom Kent. And you can follow me on LinkedIn as well. If you search Dominic Kent, I should be in pretty near the top.

Unknown Speaker  54:43  
Awesome, and ujung.

John Yarborough  54:46  
Twitter is great for me as well. That's where you will actually have your message. Read quickly, Jr, bro.

Heather Bicknell  54:52  
Awesome. Well, thanks so much, john and Dom for this conversation and for coming on the podcast. It was fun. Thanks for having me.

Ryan Purvis  55:01  
Again, thanks everyone. Thank you for listening to today's episode. Hey, the big news producer, editor. Thank you, Heather for your hard work on this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at WWE podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website www digital workspace works. Please also visit our website www dot digital workspace works and subscribe to a newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Dominic KentProfile Photo

Dominic Kent

Director of Content Marketing & Communications at Mio

I'm a Freelance Marketing Consultant for hire.
I specialise in creating and optimising B2B SaaS content- with a niche focus on Unified Comms, Team Collaboration, and Contact Centre.
Most recently, I've recently taken the Mio blog from 600 monthly blog readers to consistently hitting 200,000+ blog readers, all while delivering enterprise and SMB leads at scale.
I host the UC Influencers podcast (unifiedcommsinfluencers.com) where I post a weekly interview with the most influential people in the Unified Comms industry.
HOW I’M DIFFERENT: I've done it all before. I'm not just a marketing person winging it.
I've provisioned, project managed, been a customer, done some tech support, assisted sales teams, created product collateral, advised on strategy, ran procurements, hand-held installations, written copy, edited copy, set product marketing strategies, devised editorial calendars, been a journalist, created bespoke content, ran teams, ran websites, and now run content marketing and communications in the evolving telecoms industry.
You will get the biggest bang for your buck if you hire me to do a combination of the following: research, manage, execute, and optimise content. This could be existing content that needs an overhaul, a lead magnet blog post, or a brand new content strategy and editorial calendar.
Content Marketing, Content Strategy, Copywriting, Editing, SEO Optimisation, Influencer Marketing, Social Media, Market Analysis, Inbound Marketing, Journalism, Reporting, Blogging, Unified Comms, Team Collaboration, Contact Centre, Slack, Microsoft Teams.

John YarbroughProfile Photo

John Yarbrough

Corporate Marketing and Communications Lead for Lifesize

John Yarbrough is Senior Director of Brand and Communications for Lifesize, a global enterprise communications company.