How HR can lead on reducing email overload

woman looking at computer screen

Communication is a central part of everything we do in work and play, but it is also one of the easiest and most common things to do inadequately, which can cause a multitude of issues throughout a business.

The NHS has attracted scrutiny for ‘reply-all’ replyallpocalypses, which have slowed internal and external communications down to a halt, vastly overloading servers, while several prestigious universities have also been struck by email storms in recent years. Even without falling prey to such an error,the average person spends 13 hours a week reading and processing email communications, and at over a quarter of the average working week, this is an obvious waste of time and resources. HR departments can take charge and empower their businesses to communicate efficiently and with minimal interruption.

Inbox zero

As originally coined by Merlin Mann, the Inbox Zero concept centres on ‘how much of your own brain is in that inbox’, and not, as many assume, maintaining a consistently empty inbox. This can be achieved by a slight reorganisation of the individual’s email system, by creating files and categorising emails, and by ensuring that any emails requiring immediate attention are actioned. Just as a pile of papers on a desk is easy to lose things in, important communications and jobs can slip through the cracks if they rest for too long in the inbox.


Getting back to the basics of an intranet system can alleviate email overload. Discussion boards and forums are a great way of managing group discussions and messages that don’t need instant attention, and definitely a more efficient way of handling comms between more than two people than ‘Reply All’. It also enables you to invite people to join the conversation by simply sending them a link to the discussion board, rather than forwarding an entire message thread to them and expecting them to make sense of it all.


Younger generations are now very used to instant messaging, which is also a great way to conduct group discussions without individual message threads criss-crossing and complicating things. There are several messaging services to choose from too, including Facebook and WhatsApp, both of which offer the advantage of creating multiple groups and conversations and flip between them if necessary. More people are becoming comfortable with this form of communication all the time, so it can be put to very good use in a business environment.

Collaboration platforms

Compared to email, online platforms are the new kids on the block. The likes of Trello, Asana and Slack offer different ways to schedule jobs, categorise what is going on and what has been completed, and provide teams with all the details and information needed to get a job done. In a nutshell, it works directly against the problem of tasks getting ‘lost in the mail’ in your typical email format, and makes sure that everyone involved is up to date.

HR departments know just how developmental a time this is for the ways in which they do their jobs, and now that more efficient techniques have been devised, it is time to start trimming off the excess time spent needlessly on tasks that are no longer necessary. Communications is one of these time-consuming jobs that is in drastic need of a makeover.