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How email and document chaos is hampering your workplace collaboration

Hand on heart, are you and your colleagues working as efficiently as you could? Are you using the right tools to share information for seamless collaboration in the workplace, thereby creating the greatest possible benefit for your company's development?

Without the right digital support and tools, there is a risk that time is spent on unnecessary extra work that only steals time from what is really important. We take a closer look at three common time stealers that crop up in many companies.

Time thief #1: We're drowning in emails - but missing information

Used correctly, email is a fast and effective communication channel, but that doesn't mean it's always the best way to collaborate in the workplace. One of the reasons is that we often email more people than we really need to. It's so easy to add a few extra names to the mailing list to make sure no one is left out.

The problems start if several people who receive the email reply and also make it to the entire mailing list. Suddenly, the number of emails multiplies by the number of recipients of the first email. If you ask a question in the email, you soon have a number of replies circulating around the workgroup.

If some recipients then choose to forward the question posed in the email, the number of emails grows exponentially as the conversation branches out. An email that was originally sent to 10 recipients has quickly resulted in 400 emails across the organisation. Trying to trace the conversation and come to a coherent conclusion to the question posed becomes a challenge, to say the least.

With an overload of emails, it becomes difficult to get an overview of which ones are relevant and deserve attention. There's a risk that we'll be forced to sift through a huge number of emails and still feel we're not getting the information we need.

Time thief #2: We share documents - but still don't share them

Say you decide to attach documents to your email and ask for feedback - that adds a new dimension to the challenge. Maybe you've polished the sales presentation or budget document you've been working on and are now asking colleagues for input. When several people take on the task and start editing the document, the communication challenge escalates further. Who keeps track of which version of the document is current and who is working on it at the moment?


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Most of us work together with our colleagues on different kinds of projects. Often we also share documents with each other. Yet surprisingly few companies have a strategy for how to collaborate on shared documents. Instead, documents are emailed around organisations. When the attachment is retrieved, it is not uncommon for each colleague to have their own place and structure where it is stored. Perhaps the company has a shared server where certain documents are stored. Perhaps some employees choose to work on the document against their own home directory first before sharing it further. Others may choose to save the files on a shared Dropbox or OneDrive.

Keeping track of important documents is a challenge - knowing where they are stored, in what structure and, not least, which version of the document is the most recent.The result is yet another time-waster when unnecessary time is spent looking for documents and other information that we know is somewhere.

Time Thief #3 - Our documents and files take on a life of their own!

When several people are working on the same document, without a common storage strategy or version control plan, another time thief emerges.

Perhaps two colleagues are updating the same text in parallel versions. Maybe a third person is correcting the original text. Duplication costs time and money and can lead to a lot of frustration in the team. Because just as the number of emails grows exponentially as they branch out across the organisation, the challenge is amplified when employees forward their respective versions to ask for input from additional colleagues. What was originally one document gradually becomes more copies as they are processed by different colleagues. Added to the duplication of effort, when several people do the same work without knowing each other, is now the challenge of putting together a final version that everyone agrees on.


Want tips and advice on how you and your organisation can free yourselves from time thieves? Microsoft Office 365 offers digital tools for better internal communication and more effective collaboration. Learn more about the possibilities of Office 365 here.