This company banned email and increased productivity, profitability

Email is often regarded as both a blessing and a curse. While its instantaneous relaying of messages makes it an effective communication system, most working people who use email hate the endless tasks of sorting through, reading and responding to emails.

According to the Harvard Business Review, email takes up 23 percent of the average employee's workday, and that employee sends or receives roughly 112 emails per day. Collectively, we send more than 108 billion emails a day in the U.S.

This deluge of emails and the time they consume is what prompted Thierry Breton, CEO of the Paris, France-based information technology services firm Atos Origin, to ban email in February 2011. According to the Harvard Business Review, Mr. Breton wanted to transform Atos Origin into a "zero-email" company by 2014.

"We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives," Mr. Breton said in a public statement released through Atos' website, according to the report. "We are taking action now to reverse this trend, just as organizations took measures to reduce environmental pollution after the industrial revolution."

Mr. Breton's decision may seem counterintuitive as the head of an IT company that employs more than 70,000 people in over 40 offices around the world. But his decision isn't spur-of-the-moment — he had ceased using internal email himself in 2006 because he found it diminished his productivity.

Of course, the company couldn't realistically ban all electronic communication. Instead, Atos Origin organized its network around 7,500 open communities representing the various projects on which people collaborated. The difference is messages don't constantly interrupt employees by flooding their inboxes. Instead, workers chose to enter the discussions on their own terms and schedules, according to the report.

Atos is still not 100 percent email free, but since implementing the change, the company has reduce overall email by 60 percent. Its operating margin increased from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent in 2013, earnings per share increased by more than 50 percent and administrative costs fell from 13 percent to 10 percent, according to the report. While not all of these improvements can be attributed to banning email, the correlation is strong, as research suggests restricting email can dramatically increase individual productivity and reduce stress.

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