Why we banned internal email and saved hundreds of hours a month

Gary Vanbutsele
4 min readFeb 25, 2022

The average office worker receives around 121 emails every workday and sends around 40. A survey by Adobe found people in the workplace spend on average 3.1 hours per day sending and checking their emails alone.

While email was created to send and receive vital information needed to ensure productivity, the volume and time spent ‘doing’ email seems counter-productive to the high performance and growth culture that most growing organizations aspire to.

It’s why we banned internal email and saved hundreds of hours a month.

We’re not the first company to ban internal email. In 2011, CEO Thierry Breton of the French information technology company Atos said only 10 percent of the 200 messages employees received per day were useful, and 18 percent were spam.

Frictionless experience starts from within

We realized when we built Whale that knowledge and information that isn’t shared and isn’t consistent wastes time. Knowledge management just wasn’t enough; we knew we had to ensure knowledge sharing.

This is obviously the challenge that email is meant to solve but we’ve always held this idea of frictionless experience and reducing barriers to growth through systemization.

When we built Whale, we had this moment where we realized that we didn’t need internal email anymore. Whale + Slack meant that we reduced internal friction dramatically.

It was about replacing email, where possible, with productivity tools that actually enabled productivity.

Creating a frictionless experience for our customers meant we had to start within the team first.

Email creates an illusion of productivity

While the idea of a zero Inbox is the nirvana so many of us chase, the reality is that most of us don’t get there. Even if we manage to tend to every message in the inbox and capture that rare moment of perceived success, it’s only a matter of time before a new one comes in.

It’s all about perception. We realized that email isn’t work, the perception of work, but it isn’t real work.

You receive the email. You read the email. You sort the email. You delete the email. You write the email. You send the email. You save items. You forget to save items. You forget to attach items.

It feels like work, but it isn’t. It’s the equivalent of shuffling papers around on a desk. It’s moving information, and moving information isn’t sharing information.

There are better ways to communicate

Creating a culture of growth and learning means communication, but communication doesn’t need to mean email, even in an asynchronous remote working environment or an environment where different team members are situated in other locations.

Once derailed from a task by an interruption, it takes an average of 23 minutes, 15 seconds to get back on track. (Source: The Muse)

That’s a lot of wasted time that could be spent focusing on building products, solving customer problems, brainstorming, and just getting tasks done.

The thing is, we’re only human right? Of course, we’re going to open an email when we receive it. Just like we’re most likely going to open any notification that suddenly pings. So there isn’t any point in trying to change the human.

It’s better to solve the problem with systemization.

It forced us to focus on our values and what we’re delivering

Productivity isn’t doing, productivity is delivering.

You can be unproductive over weeks or productive in a few hours.

It’s essentially about attention. The more attention you pay to a task, the more productive you’re more likely to be. The less you have to look for something or recreate something, the more productive you’re likely to be.

This isn’t just why we built Whale but it’s why we use it and why we’ve recently rebranded the company and have grown our team to focus on our mission.

Knowledge is power and it’s completely useless unless it’s shared. Sharing it seamlessly is the key which is why we built a browser integration that keeps the user focused on the task at hand.

Mission Chaos to Clarity

We have this obsession; how do we help clients move from chaos to clarity and 10X their growth in bitesize chunks?

We know that our questions are what our customers face in their own businesses;

How do we systemize our processes?

How do we onboard our teams better?

How do we run meetings better?

How do we solve customer challenges faster?

How do we operate more efficiently?

What do we need to focus on to deliver our mission?

Banning email was one way to help us focus more on our mission.

Pragmatically it was pretty simple too; we implemented a couple of tools that helped manage the business on the go. We created one structured weekly team meeting with the help of Traction Tools and we implemented Slack for messaging and used Whale to share the knowledge we need whilst working.

Sure we had to get in the habit of turning off Slack notifications during hours of deep work but we got into the habit pretty quickly. We didn’t want our team working 24–7 and really it wasn’t necessary; a more structured approach to work and eliminating internal email created hours we never thought we had.

___________________________________________________________________

If there’s one thing I’m obsessed with these days it’s creating 10X the value is the smallest amount of time possible. Found a great scaling hack? Drop me a message

--

--

Gary Vanbutsele

Co-founder and CEO of Whale. Former founder of an IT services company where every day felt like putting out fires. Now obsessed with unlocking growth!