Escaping email: Inspired vision or hallucination?

Jul 30 2014, 14:39 IST
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Incessant drumbeat of emails has become an excruciating annoyance for people at work. Incessant drumbeat of emails has become an excruciating annoyance for people at work.
SummaryAn audacious attempt is being made to change the way people connect at work...

Dustin Moskovitz is plotting an escape from email. The 30-year-old entrepreneur has learned a lot about communication since he teamed up with his college roommate Mark Zuckerberg to create Facebook a decade ago, and this wisdom is fueling an audacious attempt to change the way people connect at work, where the incessant drumbeat of email has become an excruciating annoyance.

Moskovitz is trying to turn that chronic headache into an afterthought with Asana, a San Francisco startup he runs with former Facebook and Google product manager, Justin Rosenstein.

Asana peddles software that combines the elements of a communal notebook, social network, instant messaging application and online calendar to enable teams of employees to share information and not rely on email.

''We are trying to make all the soul-sucking work that comes with email go away,'' Rosenstein says. ''This came out of a deep, heartfelt pain that Dustin and I were experiencing, along with just about everyone around us.''

The inconvenience keeps mounting in the corporate world, which remains an email haven. This year, each worker using a business email account will send and receive a daily average of 121 mail messages, a 15 percent increase from 105 per day in 2011, according to The Radicati Group, which tracks email use.

In contrast, consumers have been weaning themselves from electronic inboxes and increasingly turning to digital alternatives such as social media and mobile messaging.


Asana co-founders Dustin Moskovitz, left, and Justin Rosenstein, pose at the company's headquarters in San Francisco. Asana peddles software that enable teams of employees to share information and do most of their jobs without relying on email. (AP).

More email translates to less productivity as workers spend time weeding their inboxes. Vital pieces of business information are sometimes corralled in an inbox instead of in a database that can be searched by anyone working on the same project.

If companies set up communications channels that work more like social networks, the amount of time workers could devote to other things would increase by about 8 percent each week, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. Another 6 percent of the workweek would be freed up if the shift away from email could unlock more of the so-called ''dark matter'' hidden in individual inboxes, McKinsey estimates.

Asana is trying to solve these problems. Its bare-bones system, free to use for teams of

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