AXA story

Saying no to email for a day

Modern life can be distracting. We check our email, see if anyone’s Whatsapped us, scroll through Instagram, flick through Facebook and hop onto Twitter for just a second or two. For every notification we get, our attention is pulled away, our concentration broken and it’s no different at work. Studies have shown that when we’re interrupted it takes around 23 minutes for our focus to return. This can lead to both increased stress levels and being less efficient. So we wanted to see if we could help our people cope better with distraction at work. With Wellness Week at the end of June, this was the perfect opportunity to explore having a No Email Day. We’ve been speaking to Kirsten Ross, Internal Communications Manager for Group Operations (part of AXA Group which operate in the UK and globally) who helped to organise the day, to find out about how it all worked.

Our employees in the UK, suggested the concept when we discussed how we can collaborate better. It was very timely when Talar Sarafian, Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Group Operations based in our head office in Paris, approached me about Wellness Week and her desire to arrange a no email day with Group Operations teams all around the world. I jumped at the chance to support it.

The impact of email    

The day started with a webinar, featuring Talar Sarafian, was beamed to all GO offices all over the world, She explained what happens to us when we receive an email. It can actually release dopamine in your body, which is a ‘feel-good’ hormone that rewards us for certain behaviours and is the motivation behind wanting to repeat them. We waste a lot of time going into our email inbox to respond to emails straight away. Every time you switch from one task to another, it takes time to get into the new task. So she advised us to set specific times aside throughout the day to check and respond to emails.

We work really closely with AXA UK as we support their IT infrastructure and other IT services, so we knew we would need to use our judgement and respond to important emails. Aside from that, the aim was to not use emails for the day and people embraced it.  

The biggest benefit of the day for me was that it encouraged me to speak to people more, whether that was in person or over the phone. By doing that we’re getting to know people better, which makes for a friendlier, more collaborative working environment. It was also great having less emails in my inbox!

What we’ve learnt

There is still a place for email, for example when you want to summarise what you’ve all agreed in a meeting to make sure that everyone is on the same page. But there are also lots of times we send emails because it’s a habit. To help break the habit, think about what you want to achieve that day. Then set-up and stick to a schedule to check your emails. Switching notifications off will really help too. All this stops you from getting pulled into an email rabbit hole and wasting time on things which aren’t a priority. It’s sometimes hard to break habits – but it is possible – with the right motivation and a plan in place.

I’ve heard good feedback from the day. Having the webinar at the start really helped because it made us think about the benefits of reducing the number of emails for others and ourselves. It would be great to have this as annual event to prevent us from slipping into old ways.