The end of office email?

Some stocks could benefit if other companies follow the lead of France's Atos and ban internal email.

By Kim Peterson Dec 5, 2011 3:41PM
Image: Office worker (© Ebby May/Getty Images)You get into the office, coffee in hand, ready to start the workday. You fire up the computer, only to find a bunch of email from your bosses and co-workers.

Groan. There goes the morning.

That's exactly the buzzkill French tech company Atos wants to avoid, so it's banning office email. Instead, the company's 74,000 employees will be required to use instant-messaging tools or a Facebook-style chat interface, ABC News reports.

The company's logic might ring true with office workers worldwide. People spend too much time sending and answering email messages. It interferes with productivity. It creates distractions. Atos estimates that managers spend between five and 20 hours a week just reading and writing email.

"We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives," CEO Thierry Breton says on the company's website. "At Atos we are taking action now to reverse this trend."

Is this the start of a larger movement against corporate email? And could consumer email soon follow? Facebook, Twitter, texting and other platforms have all cut into email use -- and that trend shows no signs of slowing.

Here are some stocks to watch in this sector:

IBM (IBM). The company's IBM Connections software includes blogs, wikis and forums.

VMware (VMW). The company bought workplace microblogging company Socialcast earlier this year and is building up a social software offering. (CRM). The company has developed Chatter, a private social network that it says reduces email by 30% and employee meetings by 27%.

Jive. This isn't a stock yet, but the company is moving forward with an IPO that could raise as much as $117 million. Jive makes Facebook-style tools for workers, and will be listed on Nasdaq under the symbol JIVE.

Microsoft (MSFT). The company isn't about to loosen its grip on the office communications sector, developing new productivity tools under the Lync platform. (Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)

Facebook. Also not a stock yet but a highly anticipated IPO is in the works. Some smaller companies have been using Facebook as a way for employees to communicate, as it's free and employees are already signed up. But some social-media experts doubt Facebook can be private enough for such use.

Back at Atos, CEO Breton says he hasn't sent a work email in three years. "If people want to talk to me, they can come and visit me, call or send me a text message," he told The Wall Street Journal. "Emails cannot replace the spoken word."

Dec 6, 2011 11:58AM
Here's a novel ideal....let's just call each other and schedule appointments.  I cannot tell you how much time I waste emailing customers one question at a time or to schedule an appointment.  If we just got on the phone it would be done in under a minute!  Email and instant messaging just allows people to hide from the real world and does not teach anyone how to communicate effectively. 
Dec 6, 2011 5:01PM
ok, this sound stupid. If i am working on a project, I don't want to get interrupted all the time by a IM, i rather get an e-mail and then decide if I want to respond right away or if it can wait. Yes, when I come in the office in the morning I have sometimes upward of at least 20+ sometime as much as 50 e-mail waiting. So I scan over the subject line, if it sounds important I read and respond, otherwise it waits until I get the important things answered. It takes me about 30 minutes to scan over and reply to them all. Some of them I delete because they are just junk, most of them are answered quickly. Once I get working don't interrupt me with a stupid IM to get an answer for a question that is asked faster by phone. I talk faster than I write, and I write pretty fast. I work with my hands and having to put down what I work on just to type an answer its taking time away from my projects, call me if you need an answer right away or e-mail if its not urgent. I expect the same thing from my staff, don't stop working to have your hands free to text, work with both hands and have the phone stuck between your ear and your shoulder.
Dec 6, 2011 10:12AM
Really now, how is receiving an IM that requires immediate attention better than an email that you can reply back when your time allows? This 'study' talks about 5-20 hours used up in email reading/replying, but how much time would be wasted stopping your work to reply to an IM that has nothing to do with what you are currently doing? How can you focus/concentrate in what you are doing when you have 20 people constantly asking you for stuff? You're only setting yourself up to lose track, or make a mistake. I can think of a FEW professions where this would be appropriate. For the rest of us, no thanks. I can't close out my reports every time you want to know something that I am not currently on. And I can't afford to make mistakes because you interrupted me in the middle of an analysis. Just because some high Exec spends too much time chatting away and is trying to cover it up by making it a requirement doesn't mean this is a good idea.
Dec 6, 2011 4:00PM

You have got to be kidding. Now instead of 5-20 hours a week doing emails, they will be doing 10-25 hours a week doing IM, or some other facebook style communication, wasting the same amount of time if not more. Why, because IM requires that some one be there to answer the massager so that you can communicate. Email does not. just leave a message.


As Latrops said, you can bet the consultants got paid well for this stupid idea.

Dec 5, 2011 9:03PM
I can see now what this is all about.  It's about keeping people chained to their desk.  I can see it now.  "Why is your status 'Away' so often?".  "I sent you an IM.  Why did you not respond right away?". 

What a load of BS.  Email gives you some control over your time.  IM/Chat does not.  It allows people to interrupt you whenever they feel like it.  The other problem is that I can't create a trail very easily with IM.  I can archive email and follow a thread.  IM/Chat doesn't do that very well. 

And finally.... why is it faster to respond to IM than it is to email?  What if I want to think or check some facts before I reply?  Yeah.... these people are idiots. 

Dec 6, 2011 9:34AM
Not everyone wants to use FB or Twitter.  Will we get fired for that?  This is the stupidest thing a company can do.
Dec 5, 2011 9:52PM

Ok so if you want to email a proposal, a quote or a schematic to a customer are you now going to IM them? Maybe you could put your proposal out on Facebook so that your competitors can see it too!

This has to be one of the dumbest articles you guys have ever come up with.

Email is an invaluable tool that provides many benefits not limited to:

An audit trail ("No you DID say that, I have it in your email").

I am not going to respond to that now because it is not a priority.

I will forward this email to someone and get their input before answering.

I can send this email with an attachment to everyone on the other coast now and they can answer it when it is convenient for them.

And the list goes on. IM !!!!   Are you serious????

Dec 5, 2011 9:13PM

Great, this way we get to work inside the office and outside the office....24/7 with IM...I can't wait!!!!!! Kill me now.Crying I personally, like to keep email, it shows proof of a conversation.


Dec 5, 2011 4:38PM
While suppression of use of email may work for Mr. Breton and others, I value email as a "CYB" (Cover Your Backside) tool preserving an audit trail of correspondence. I save all my email, thus making it very difficult for someone to try to pin some mishap on me or otherwise out and out lie. Over 25 years experience in the Help Desk business proved this (unfortunately) to be true all too often.
Dec 5, 2011 5:48PM
IM?? There is nothing more annoying than an IM window flashing at you. That stupid annoying flash.
Dec 6, 2011 3:02PM

Give me a break...constant interruptions and the time spent chatting are going to be a better and more productive alternative.  What kind of idiots come up with this stuff...

Dec 5, 2011 4:28PM
Very shortsighted and dumb idea.  While I do agree that JUNK email can cause a loss in productivity, nothing would be worse than having 20 Instant Message conversations going on at the same time.  How many times would you accidentally respond to the wrong person or accidentally close a chat window and not realize it was closed?  How many times will you forget to respond to someone?  There really isn't a difference  in reading 20 Instant Messages vs. reading 20 emails.  What happens when groups come into play?  Sending or creating a group chat is going to cause more confusing that allowing an email thread to run its course. All you are doing is shifting the paradigm to 20 hours a week using Instant Messaging vs. 20 hours a week using email.  Maybe the company should focus on better communication skills in general.
Dec 6, 2011 5:09PM

Unlike most of you commenting here I'm a dinosaur that actually remembers doing business before the PC.  It was alot more personal, alot more fun, alot more freedom and things were accomplished more quickly because we all weren't choking on terabytes of information. 


As a sales rep back in the early 80s I asked the president of a new company how he wanted me

to communicate with him from the field.  His response, "Communicate by purchase order.

If we're unhappy we'll call you."  Now those were the days....

Dec 6, 2011 3:00PM

Just because the phone rings doesn't mean you have to answer it!  Just because an e-mail or instant msg, or text comes in doesn't mean you have to respond - ESPECIALLY after work hours!

After all, who's paying the phone bill?  We do this to ourselves - if we make ourselves available 24/7 people come to expect you will BE available 24/7.  STOP ANSWERING!!!!! and relax!

Dec 5, 2011 5:16PM
Apparently, these researchers are too young to remember that email replaced the dreadful office memo or letters written to employees.  If you think that an email takes too long, compare it to typing memos or sending letters.  Email is so much quicker and provides what is needed, a documented message.  I guess that they will be taking away their telephones next...
Dec 5, 2011 6:19PM

Smile You got to be kidding? IM's more annoying and harder to ignore than email. With email you answer to really important stuff, file those worth it, delete spam and wait forever to answer your boss. IM not.

Dec 6, 2011 6:24PM
Eliminating office email won't solve a thing.  Eliminating the "reply to all" option will fix nearly everything.  Too many people copy too many people on things that are irrelevant to most of the addressees.
Dec 6, 2011 3:17PM

"Instead...employees will be required to use instant-messaging tools or a Facebook-style chat interface".


Oh brother.  IM, email,'s all pretty much the same.  I'm sure those consultants were paid well to come up with this, too.


How bout they just train their managers to be more brief and to the point with their emails.  Who doesn't have or know an entirely too thorough boss or coworker that sends 500 word emails that could have gotten the same message across in 25 words?

Dec 6, 2011 11:36AM

To all the people talking about using Facebook instead of email, it says "facebook-style IM".  Which is kind of ridiculous considering the "facebook-style IM" is nothing original.  It's just a plain old IM system.  Anyway, they're not talking about using Facebook to replace email, but just a plain old instant messaging system.


Either way, this seems like a stupid idea.  Email is much easier to store and sort than IM's.  So let's say you switch from email to IM.  Now, instead of being able to send an email to a coworker who is out of the office (sick, vacation, whatever) for them to read when they get back, what are you going to do?  Send them an IM?  Let's look at "IM".  Instant message.  Instant.  What good is an instant message that won't be read for 3 days? 


Ok, beyond the fact that IM is just a weaker form of email, let's say you work in a big company and you come to the office to find 50 emails.  Let's replace those with IMs.  Now, instead of replying to 50 emails, you have to reply to 50 IMs.  Only, instead of being able to take your time, get your info, documents, links, whatever else, in order, you've got bosses and supervisors sitting at their desk waiting on your reply.  Is a CEO making the equivalent of, say, $100 dollars an hour going to want to spend those hours sitting at his computer waiting for you to reply to his IM? 


Let's say your boss has 4 different projects that (s)he needs information on.  What is better?  4 different emails, each one specific to a separate project, or one IM conversation that contains all 4?  What if you tell your boss that one project was scrapped and they think you meant project 1 but you were talking about project 3? 


This is just a stupid idea.  I don't think they really thought this through.  There is no way that office email will "die" to instant messaging.

Dec 5, 2011 7:15PM
Email takes too much time and texting will make it quicker to send your message?  Really??  And Facebook.......    Really?   THAT'S going to cut down on the amount of time spent sending messages?   Have there been government studies showing that texting and Facebook save time as opposed to email?  If not, I'm sure it's in the works....they're just trying to work up the email to send out to propose the study. DO realize that it's all still electronic communication and it ALL takes time to compose, send, read and respond to?  Or not....for those of us who just delete the stupid things and go back to work.....
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