Why email beats instant messaging if you want to improve remote productivity

If you’re new to remote work, you’re probably starting to realize that it can be tough to stay focused and get deep work done.

One of the leading causes of these distractions is your instant messaging platform of choice. Most likely, that’s Slack or Microsoft Teams.

They’re designed to grab your attention and pull you out of your focus.

It’s a growing problem for remote teams.

Lucas Miller, professor at Berkeley University, says: “Slack is instant and we get a rewarding hit of dopamine every time we respond to someone or someone reaches out to us to let us know a member of our ‘work tribe’ needs us“.

📲It’s like social media.

🫣You know you don’t need to check it, but you do.

💬If you’re relying on workplace chat tools for your communication, you and your team are being distracted more than you should be.

📧If you want to boost your remote work productivity, consider switching to email.

📈Email will help improve your remote productivity by eliminating distractions and adding clarity.

In this article, I’m going to walk you through:

  • Email Productivity: Why Does It Matter?
  • Why Email Beats Instant Messaging for Productivity
  • Benefits of Having a Standard Email Response Policy
  • How timetoreply Can Help Boost Remote Email Productivity

By the end, you’ll be ready to make changes to your team’s communication strategy to improve productivity, even with your team working from home.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the article.

Remote work productivity: why does it matter?

Remote work can be hard to adapt to.

If you don’t have robust systems in place, you’ll struggle to find the information you need to get work done, and you’ll find it hard to stay focused throughout the day.

One of the main culprits of remote work distractions is instant messaging.

Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams may look good for productivity, but the reality is, they’re not.

Alicia Liu at Nava highlights the core of the issue:

What seems like innocuous quick pings on Slack are often things that actually require deep thought and likely discussion, or require complex problem solving, or are requests for me to do a significant amount of work, and so on. Yet big or small, everything coming in through Slack shares the same compact shape, and worse, the same level of urgency.

It’s impossible to stay focused if you’re getting a notification every 10 minutes that pull your focus from the work you were doing.



But, all is not lost.

You can beat this distraction by reverting all essential communications to email.

Wait, am I really advocating ditching Slack for email in 2020?


Switching your remote workplace communications to email will streamline information, eliminate distractions, and ensure all key information is easily accessible.

Why email is a good indicator for productivity

Email activity is a better indicator of productivity than most people think it is. Even more so in a remote work environment.

In a regular, office-based environment, most workers aim to always be on top of their inboxes. In fact,  80% of people say they check their email before they even get to work.

If you’ve just started working from home and members of your team aren’t responsive to emails, it may indicate that their productivity levels are dropping.

If they usually reply to important emails between 9-10 am, and now they’re only getting to them after lunch, something might be up.

Alternatively, if one of your sales reps is always on top of their emails and responds to sales leads within an hour, but now they’re leaving sales leads hanging until sometime the next day, they’re clearly not active or online as much as they usually would be.

That’s not to say you should accuse your employees of being unproductive just because their email habits have changed.

Working from home does cause schedule changes.

For example, if someone has kids, they’re naturally going to need to adjust their schedule to take care of them.

But, if you notice someone’s not responding to important emails for longer than they would if they were in the office, it’s worth checking in with them to see if they need any help or have issues when working from home that you could help them solve.

If you’re worried about team productivity dropping whilst working from home, timetoreply can help – our tools let you see metrics for your employee’s time of first email activity and the time of their last email activity.

It’s the perfect way to set goals and make sure everyone stays productive while working remotely.

Why email beats instant messaging if you want to improve remote productivity

Email is still around for a reason.

Messages are stored and easily referred to.

It’s not overly distracting.

It’s an asynchronous form of communication, so it doesn’t cause unnecessary stress.

Above all, it’s going to improve your team’s productivity as they have access to more complete information that doesn’t distract them every 5 minutes with a new notification sound. 

Let’s take a look at the top reasons for switching from instant messaging to email.

1. Eliminate FOMO caused by Slack or MSFT Teams

It takes around 20 minutes of uninterrupted focus time to reach a state of flow.

The problem with Slack or Microsoft Teams is that this is easily broken as soon as you hear the notification sound ring out.

However, with email, it’s easy to close the tab and forget about it for an hour.

You don’t experience the same FOMO that you do with instant messaging.

Therefore, you can work on the tasks that matter without feeling the need to jump into your inbox every few minutes in case you missed a message.

It also means that whenever you do check your email, you’re truly focused on it.

You’re not there just to send a few quick pings to different team members.

You can think through what you’re sending and write out thoughtful, useful emails that let your coworkers take action.

2. Promotes long form and detailed communication

Slack encourages short-form, quick messages.

That leads to problems like:

  • Lack of full context in messages
  • Lack of organized thoughts
  • Unclear takeaways

With email, things are different.

The communication form encourages thinking things through before hitting send because it feels more permanent and important than a simple chat message.

You’ll ensure your message is logical and clear.

You’ll include key takeaways or actions that need to be taken as a result of the message.

In the end, you end up with a team who are all on the same page regarding their work and actions that need to happen in a way that just doesn’t happen over Slack.

3. Allows a custom setup

One of the best parts about your inbox is that you can customize it to your heart’s content.

gmail filters

Create rules in your inbox, different tagging systems, and optimize how you send and receive emails. Almost all email management tools support customization, so you can customize your inbox no matter your workflow.

Tools like timetoreply will also help you get on top of you and your team’s inboxes and improve your email productivity.

Benefits of having standard email response policies

Email is perfect for remote teams, and to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding expectations, consider setting up a standard email reply time policy.

This is a set of guidelines that outlines how your team should use their email.

For example:

  • Reply to all customer queries within 24 hours
  • Respond to coworkers about ongoing projects within 12 hours
  • Don’t check emails outside of business hours

1. Clear expectations

Your standard email response policy will help your team understand the expectations you have for them and ensure they’re always on top of their inbox.

If everyone sticks to it, communication will be easy, and expectations will be set.

No more checking Slack every 5 minutes to see if there’s a new message waiting.

2. Motivation to respond to coworkers, customers, & leads

30% of remote workers say they get more done in less time compared to being in the office.

Tools like timetoreply can help.

Using your standard reply time policies as a guide, your team can see where they’re doing well and what areas they can improve on.


email reply times

For example, are sales leads being left too long without a response?

Are coworkers being left hanging?

Using data, your team can optimize their workday and ensure remote team productivity is excellent. The result? Better business results and a happier team.

3. Eliminate instant message related stress

82% of people say working remotely leads to lower levels of stress.

This can be related to office-related stressors, or things like a long commute, however, it’s also associated with effective remote communication.

If your team has clear expectations about how to communicate with each other, they can ensure they meet those expectations.

This will reduce stress, as your team won’t feel the need to stop whatever they’re working on whenever they see a new message come in on Slack or Teams.

As they know your email response time policy, they’ll have the flexibility to continue what they’re working on, and still be able to respond in a timely manner.

Using email instead of instant messaging tools means your team won’t be attention-switching every few minutes and can focus on what they do best – getting great work done.

How timetoreply can help improve remote email productivity

Remote working is a reality for almost every company now, so you need to be prepared to handle it well.

If you’re ready to improve your remote team’s productivity, then timetoreply is for you.

Our email response time software is the best way to make sure that your remote productivity stays high, and all mission-critical emails are responded to.

measure email reply times


timetoreply is packed with features to help improve productivity for individual and group mailboxes.

Detailed analytics and data enable you to track team performance and find areas to improve.

You can create goals to motivate your team and ensure your company stays productive no matter where you’re located.

Wrapping Up

Keeping remote productivity high is key to succeeding today, but you need to be organized if you expect results.

One of the most impactful ways to ensure your team is productive when working from home is to use email rather than instant messaging tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams.

Email promotes well thought out communication instead of short-form messages. Your team will have a clear idea of what’s going on in the company, and less key information will be lost in the noise of archived or old messages.

Email productivity software like timetoreply can be a major help in getting your team up to speed for remote work.

Setting goals and clear expectations are critical if you want to maintain remote productivity levels, and our tool allows managers to create clear, actionable goals for teams to strive towards.

Grab your free trial here or schedule a product demo with our team.

We’d love to chat and see how we can help!

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