Used with permission from HP Tech@Work

Your inbox is probably here to stay. Here’s how it’ll be changing.

We’ve been tethered to email as the primary form of business communication for a couple decades now. Yet study after study has proven that it’s a productivity-wasting time suck. Just look at these numbers:

  • On average, employees send and receive 122 emails per day
  • They have around 199 unread messages in their inbox
  • And they spend a whopping one-third of their workdays on email

Having a full, disorganized inbox clutters your brain; getting to “Inbox Zero” (a term first coined by tech podcaster Merlin Mann) is considered a badge of honor. Now that more and more companies stay connected via productivity bots like Slack—which many believed would be the final nail in email’s coffin back in 2014 when it got popular—why are any of us still using email at all?

Despite the many reports of its demise, email is actually growing at a healthy pace. In 2016 there were 2.6 billion email users worldwide; that number is set to rise to 2.9 billion by 2019. That’s a third of the planet’s population—a whole lot of people you’ll have to convince that email’s a thing of the past. In fact, smart minds everywhere are working on ways to bring email into the future. Here’s how.

Email is getting more secure.

Think it’s safe to complain about the boss on Slack? Think again. On April 20 Slack made an update to its privacy policy that lets employers read private direct messages without telling workers. More important than office gossip, though, is the handling of sensitive information and documents—which are what new secure email clients such as ProtonMail are designed for. ProtonMail messages are encrypted end-to-end, and the company’s servers are in Switzerland (and thus protected by the stringent privacy laws there). Your business can set it up so that even admins can’t access all the accounts. No team chat client can do that yet.

Email will start looking (and working) more like browsers and apps.

In February Google announced that they are releasing a Gmail developer preview of “AMP for Email.” AMP (short for Accelerated Mobile Pages) is Google’s open-source framework that makes mobile web pages load faster; now they’re using it to build a self-contained web experience within email. For example, you might get an email about a pair of jeans on sale and purchase them right from your inbox. This may not mean much for internal emails, but it has huge ramifications for how your business communicates with customers.

Email will work with AI to organize your life.

Your inbox isn’t just for messaging; it’s also a dumping ground for everything you’ve got going on. (Think about how many emails from no-reply addresses you receive every day.) Letting an AI scrape your emails to put meetings on your calendar is just the tip of the iceberg. Smart mail clients like Newton, Edison and Astro have built-in assistants that’ll pull important emails to the top, unsubscribe to spam, and create timelines around themes (like emails about an upcoming presentation or business trip).

So don’t say goodbye to your inbox just yet. Email is sticking around. It’s just evolving into something that works the way people need it to in 2018.

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