It Seems No One’s Reading Emails Anymore — Gen Z May Be Winning the Office Culture War

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Niamh Kavanagh
Niamh Kavanagh
Niamh Kavanagh is a social media and digital marketing expert, CMO of Dream Machine Foundation, and storyteller with a purpose. She grew Dream Machine to 8M followers and edited videos that raised $750K for charity, earning attention from Oprah, Steve Harvey, and Khloe Kardashian.

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.

As Gen Zers make up more and more of the workforce, some of their habits have suggested there could be an intergenerational culture clash in the office.

Gen Zers are already proving themselves to be different from other generations in the workplace. They’re making office language less formal, and prioritizing self-care and happiness over chasing success.

Many are even reshaping the idea of the traditional “career ladder” by turning their backs on being managers, and say they would rather earn more at their current level or wait longer to go for senior roles.

Over the past few years, it has become apparent that there is another aspect of office culture that Gen Zers appear to be pushing back against: emails. Instead, they’re opting for more “informal” communication platforms, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams.

People have been relying on email to send business messages to one another for decades — but it’s fraught with problems.

According to a survey conducted by Slack and OnePoll in August, workers using email say their questions often go unanswered, they’re addressed by the wrong name, and they’re frequently asked questions by others that have already been directly answered.

With so much content available online, it appears that people are also getting choosier about what they spend their time reading. Over half of respondents said they won’t bother reading an email if it is eight or more sentences, and many added it’s caused them to miss deadlines and lose out on opportunities.

In addition to these practical implications, organizations that choose to communicate solely through emails may be leaving a negative impression on employees — 46% of the survey respondents believe that using email means their company is “lagging behind with technology” and half of respondents would like their company to move from email to other forms of communication.

Some organizations are taking notes, turning towards instant messaging chats instead.

The popularity of such platforms designed for workers, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, skyrocketed during the pandemic as working from home left many people searching for a faster, more convenient way to communicate.

In the absence of face-to-face contact, these platforms have also made it easier for workers to understand each other’s tone by allowing people to send emojis, GIFs, and pictures through messages.

Some organizations are blurring the boundaries between work and play even further by shunning specially designed workplace messaging platforms like Slack in favor of platforms like Discord, which is popular among the gaming community.

The death of email is good news for Gen Z

The move to more informal communication channels is great news for many Gen Zers, 57% of whom said in the survey that the underlying expectation to keep things “formal” at work is a challenge.

In recent years, many Gen Zers have been rebelling against formal work culture by using snarky email sign-offs with their colleagues, and dressing more casually at the office.

But it seems that many managers are struggling to come to terms with younger workers’ preferences. Nearly three-quarters of managers and business leaders have said Gen Z is the “most challenging generation” to work with, according to a survey published in April.

The reputation may come as a result of Gen Z’s propensity to call out workplace norms that many other workers have let slide. Many young workers are questioning why they have to work five days a week, and why they have to spend time commuting to and from the office every day participating in “soul-sucking” corporate culture.

Business Insider’s Tim Paradis has even suggested that Gen Z is forcing a workplace reckoning by asking whether the old ways of working still make sense today.

Getting rid of emails is perhaps yet another small step in Gen Z’s long-term strategy to permanently change office culture.

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