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The Risk of Email: Lost Productivity

When we think of email-related risks, we generally think of malware. What if some unscrupulous cybercriminal sends an employee a message containing a virus, Trojan horse or botnet? Organizations implement spam filters and firewalls to prevent such threats, but there is always a fear that those protections will fail.

Well, now, one company is addressing an altogether different risk of email: lost productivity.

The tech firm Atos seems to believe that its employees face threats from internal spam, meaning those pointless messages we all get from co-workers that achieve little more than distracting us from real work. So rather than let its workers decide which emails actually have value and are worth distributing, Atos came us with a simple solution:banning internal email.

CEO Thierry Breton of the French information technology company said only 10 percent of the 200 messages employees receive per day are useful and 18 percent is spam.  That’s why he hopes the company can eradicate internal emails in 18 months, forcing the company’s 74,000 employees to communicate with each other via instant messaging and a Facebook-style interface.

Oddly enough, Breton isn’t some rags-to-riches maverick from Silicon Valley who has gone bonkers. He has led several high-profile, traditional companies in France before becoming CEO of Atos. But it is he who is leading the charge to end the most prominent method of communication used in business today.

Breton,  the French finance minister from 2005 to 2007, told the Wall Street Journal he has not sent an email in the three years since he became chairman and CEO of Atos in November 2008.

“We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives,” he said in a statement when first announcing the policy in Feburary. “At [Atos] we are taking action now to reverse this trend, just as organizations took measures to reduce environmental pollution after the industrial revolution.”

I would add some additional insightful commentary but, excuse me, I just received a pop-up in the right corner of my screen telling me that my co-worker has sent me a message containing a particularly funny edition of Dilbert …

Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos (image via Nicolos Esposito)

Risk Management Magazine and Risk Management Monitor. Copyright 2020 Risk and Insurance Management Society, Inc. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume I, Number 335


About this Author

Senior Editor

Jared Wade is the senior editor of Risk Management magazine and the Risk Management Monitor blog.