An email tax

It’s pretty well-established that we have an email free rider problem.  Since there’s essentially no marginal cost for each additional person I email….voilà, SPAM represents more than 90% of all email sent.

But what about inside your organization?  I suspect you have a lot of email threads involving a back-and-forth conversation with 8 people copied.

What if you had to do the math?  30 seconds to read an email, another 30 to think about it and maybe respond x 8 people = 8 minutes of organizational time spent.

On average the people copied on your email earn $0.50 – $1.00 per minute (some more, some less, but let’s keep the math simple…and never mind that everyone’s supposed to be producing much more than they cost the company).  So each time you Reply All, even if just to say, “Thanks, Cary,” or “This will be great!” it’s cost the organization $8.  That doesn’t sound too terrible until you figure 50-150 emails/day/person in your organization…thousands and thousands of dollars per person per year because we’re lazily copying people.

Plus all the time people spend wading through emails instead of thinking.

Some ideas:

  1. Disable the “Reply All” button for emails
  2. Or if that’s too technical to implement, create norms that makes replying all unacceptable
  3. When a chain gets going, after the second note it’s someone’s job to write the group and say, “We’re taking this offline, I’ll update everyone on where we ended up.”
  4. Reply All and type “Remove me”.  Short term this increases email traffic, but pretty soon people will start thinking twice.
  5. Create an email tax: charge people $0.25 for each reply all, with a 3x match by the company ($1 total per Reply All).  Give the money away to a charity, and have a “Reply All” volunteer day to boot.  Everyone wins.
  6. Pick up the phone instead.

There are some conversations that whole groups need to follow by email, but not nearly as many as we think.  Make it cost something to send to everyone, and you’ll have more time left to do…just about anything.

add to : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : add to ma.gnolia : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook