Make E-Mail great again

It’s not “e-mail” that’s broken…

If we took all the e-mails produced by a company over the period of one year and looked at it from a “could there have been a better option than e-mail” perspective, I truly believe this is what it would look like:
E-Mail usage

No matter what the alternative could have been, in the majority of cases email wasn’t the right vehicle for moving a message from A to B.  For a small minority of cases, it probably was.

I’ve never seen any in-depth content or interaction analysis of corporate e-mail usage beyond end user surveys. But, since e-mail has turned into this intrusive curse, chasing information workers relentlessly across devices and time zones like a sinister spirit, it is clear that something’s not ok.

With the Millennials entering the workplace, this creeping feeling about e-mail has escalated further. Which hoody-wearing future talent would even consider information exchange through this antiquated medium? They Facebook, tweet, WhatsApp, Instagram or Snapchat their way through an always-on world, right?

With the intent of solving this challenge, tech companies from all over the world are introducing entirely new ways of communication to companies. Social Media in the workplace is here. What works in the private world so splendidly, must surely be the solution to the mind numbing avalanche of e-mail in the business world, mustn’t it? So the evangelists have started preaching the bright future of productivity, networking and corporate culture.

We don’t seem to have stopped at any time however, and considered the question: why is e-mail broken? Or: is e-mail even broken at all?

E-mail wasn’t built for real-time communication exchange. It was never designed for collaborating on information and documents. It should never have become the only reliable channel through which “need to know” information could be delivered.

Without even realising it, companies have managed to turn e-mail into the foundation of any business or support process. Over the course of two decades, the global workforce has been gradually conditioned to believe that e-mail is the only way for businesses to interact and exchange information digitally.

Even the good old phone call has fallen victim to the short two line message that can be so conveniently fired off between meetings. It’s really no surprise that what used to be a status symbol of “importance” has turned into a curse in the workplace.

Of course, if we insist on using e-mail for things it was never intended, it will seem broken.  But then its on us, not e-mail itself.

Sometimes, a letter is appropriate.

Not E-Mail

Well, not literally of course. When I say “letter”, I don’t mean the physical piece of paper. A letter in this context is a well considered message. A message that is sent to one or more recipients through an established channel. It conveys a certain level of formality and may be left unread until time allows. A letter can be important but isn’t necessarily urgent. Its recipients are clear and so is the sender.

I believe there are use cases that allow for, or even demand, something other than an instant message, a feed post or an entry in a discussion board. Sometimes popping over a text or answering with an emoji is even outright rude. And sometimes e-mail is the only way anyway, because there simply isn’t any other common channel a group of people share.

Just recently I watched a scene in the Netflix series “The Crown”, in which Queen Elizabeth sat down to write a letter. Before sitting down she paced back and forth, thinking about what she wanted to say. Then she took a piece of paper, opened a fountain pen and took a deep breath before writing the first lines.

This is how we should use e-mail: deliberate, thought through, with a clear objective in mind. The goal should be to convey a message to the recipient, not to just fire it off and be done with it. The format itself should be a clear signal of intent: here is something I need you to really digest and understand. Therefore I have taken the time to write it down. Read it when you have the time.

We can make e-mail great again. Literally.

If we as senders take our communication pace down a notch, we will re-gain time to think about how to write what, to who, and where. After that we can still fire away our chat messages, newsfeed posts and collaboration space comments where appropriate.

Occasionally however, we need to sit down and think for a while, take the time to write a text and choose our words and recipients carefully. Then, sign it and send if off, knowing that at the other end of the line someone will appreciate the format and wait until all the posts, messages and comments have gone quiet to then read our message, consciously and with intent.

Having the best of both worlds is possible.

At Fleep we believe in consolidating communication throughout your organization. Most modern day communication tools almost manage this.

It has become standard to expect chat tools to include messaging, voice and video calls and to let you save and share files easily as a minimum. But Fleep takes things one step further integrating with e-mail. This means you can add people to conversations and teams with their email address and they’ll receive messages as emails until they sign up to Fleep.

The very nature of this should help to foster asynchronous, considered communication within a chat app.

We realise that email has been the tool of choice for a very long time and is still at large in many organisations today. It may even have its place in some scenarios. So while we believe that change is inevitable, we’re committed to making the process of unifying your communication channels less painful by keeping them all in one place.

Sign up and trial Fleep today!

 

About the author

philipp

Philipp is a business coach and consultant who helps teams to find the “True North” for their digitalisation programs & projects. He works with structured discovery, design methods & engaging workshops, drawing on his cross-industry experience in internal & external digitalisation along the way. Find him on digital-sherpa.me and Twitter!

Does a balance of presence and remote work increase collaboration results?

Companies and jobs are becoming more and more global. The new generation of workers brings new values into the workplace, in which “life balance” plays a bigger role. Personal freedom is directly associated with trust and accountability. New technological options and greater mobility encourages freelance work for those who prefer flexibility to a monthly pay cheque. This article is about what remote work means for employees, managers and freelancers.

Remote work

Being present or being there.

We still live in a world in which often, being present in an office space is associated with productivity or dedication to the employer. For many companies, home office or remote work is still a privilege for management or those connected to the right people.
But being physically present does not necessarily mean that a person’s mind and focus are on the job. In the world of open office spaces and countless meetings it’s often quite the opposite. According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll, U.S. employees at large-sized companies (1000+ employees) spend only 45% of their time on their primary function. 14 % of their time is spent on email, the remaining 40% of their working hours is spent on meetings, admin and “interruptions”.

Globalisation and the associated decentralisation of organisations mean physical presence should no longer be an indicator for productivity. Being considered for specific roles or even a promotion, should not be determined by location. If companies really want to tap into the global talent pool and profit from diversity and cultural enrichment, it’s necessary to adapt leadership and organisational mechanics to fit that ambition. This means hiring remote workers.

According to a Deloitte study (Winning over the next generation of leaders, 2016), millennial workers feel repelled by traditional corporate structures, often believing such companies are solely driven by bottom-line goals. Companies that successfully manage to keep millennial workers on board, provide a healthy work-life balance, opportunities for personal development and allow for flexible working hours. Trust pays off, as the latest millennial study by Deloitte (The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017) has shown:

(…) Accountability and flexibility are highly correlated; those working in the more flexible environments report higher levels of personal responsibility. For example, where flexible working is most deeply entrenched, 34 percent take “a great deal” of personal accountability for their organisations’ reputations. This compares to just 12 percent within enterprises where there is low flexibility. (…)

It’s not either or. It’s the right balance that makes for a winning formula.

Mastering the art of remote work requires effort from all participants. Its a balancing act between spending enough time building and deepening relationships, mostly through digital tools since you are not on site. While at the same time leveraging the ability to retract from distraction and noise. The latter is particularly important in the attempt to reach a state called „Deep Work“, which was introduced by Cal Newport in his book in 2016.

  • Individuals need to develop a sense for when they need „down time“ from people, and when social contact is beneficial.
  • Teams need to find a way to create a solid foundation for virtual collaboration and establish rules so that the absence of one does not create bottle necks for others.
  • Managers with local and remote workers need to evolve their leadership and coaching skills. Their challenge lies in unifying a distributed team and maintaining strong bonds to those who get less face time.

For freelancers this way of working is already the norm. Frequently, they don’t see their clients face to face every day. This is particularly true if they are juggling more than one assignment. Freelancers can arrange for face time with their clients and then retract and “get things done”. With the dawn of new communication and collaboration technologies, this has become even simpler. Staying in touch with their clients has never been easier.

Making relationships with remote workers, work

In a publication from the Harvard Business Review on a 2017 study with 1’100 employees, the following key aspects of managing remote employees were described:

  • Check in frequently and consistently
  • Use face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact
  • Demonstrate exemplary communication skills
  • Make expectations explicit
  • Be available
  • Demonstrate familiarity and comfort with technology
  • Prioritise relationships

Not all aspects require physical presence, but they require more than the occasional phone call. Modern technology accommodates all the points mentioned above, even without excessive travel or time investment. It also allows for the adoption of these aspects by every member of the team.

Fleep builds bridges and maintains relationships with remote workers

At Fleep we believe that conversation is a key element of a successful team, onsite and remote. Whether it‘s about the exchange of ideas or simply about staying in touch. Developing a deeper understanding of one another and fostering relationships of any kind requires talking. Sometimes this exchange is in real-time in a chat or an audio conversation, sometimes it can go on for a longer period and be an asynchronous conversation between two or more people on a specific subject.

Fleep is designed to serve both scenarios, but ensures that live & persistent exchanges are kept in one single place. This is how we give our users the power over their conversations whilst avoiding „fear of missing out“ and the need to constantly check instant messages. Through our integration with any major e-mail client, Fleep can radically improve the way you communicate with colleagues and partners allowing you to connect seamlessly with them all in one place no matter how remote you are physically.

I trust my team to work remotely. Let me test Fleep!

 

About the author

philipp

Philipp is a business coach and consultant who helps teams to find the “True North” for their digitalisation programs & projects. He works with structured discovery, design methods & engaging workshops, drawing on his cross-industry experience in internal & external digitalisation along the way. Find him on digital-sherpa.me and Twitter!

Fleep Tasks update

There are many reasons for why we consider Tasks as one of the three main pillars of Fleep. In short, managing work in the form of a to-do-list or tasklist is effective, and we believe there is no better place for tracking tasks than contextually in Fleep, where work discussions happen and decisions are made.

Fleep Tasks

Internally, we often call it “contextual task management”. What we mean by this is that you can always see the context of the tasks created in the conversation and, if necessary, ask further questions or details about the tasks. We organize our product development in a slightly modified Scrum framework, and we use Fleep Tasks exclusively for managing our backlogs of tasks.

You can find an in-depth overview of Fleep Tasks functionality in this blog post: Fleep Tasks help you get stuff done! Recently, we’ve added some helpful functionalities to Fleep Tasks. Read on to see what’s new!

Task completion notifications

We’ve added notifications for when tasks are completed. So, every time someone marks a task as completed, a system message will be posted that will notify all of the conversation’s members, informing which task was completed.

task completed

By default, the notifications are switched on. If you find them too noisy or unnecessary, you can switch them off from the appropriate setting under Conversation settings. However, we hope the task completion notifications provide a nice sense of accomplishment and virtual high-fives all around.

Move to section action

From our own use – and users’ feedback, of course – we’ve realized tasklists can get lengthy. And if you use sections on Fleep Taskboards, moving tasks from one section to another can become cumbersome.

For this, we’ve added the “Move to section” action. Just open the message actions menu on any task, and choose “Move to section” — and then what section you want to move it to. The task will then be moved to the top of the section you’ve selected.

Move to section

Improved Taskboards on mobile apps

Quite recently, we rewrote major parts of our architecture. This included rewriting the code for our Taskboards, improving the experience of everyone using Fleep Tasks. And perhaps the biggest improvements can be seen in our Android and iOS apps, where the Taskboards are now significantly faster and more reliable.

To-do and done emoticons

Last, but not least, we have brought back a nice little hidden feature for those, who use Fleep emoticons – you can click on any ((todo)) emoticon in the message flow to mark it as ((done)) and vice versa. You can even use these inside pinned messages or inside tasks to create sub-tasks within a task message!

todo_done_emoticons

Anything else?

We’re working on one of the most requested Fleep Tasks features of 2017 – a My Tasks view. This view will give an overview of all Fleep Tasks assigned to you. My Tasks will be very useful for everyone who do not organize their team’s backlog in one dedicated Fleep conversation, but rather have them across different dedicated conversations. If you’d be interested in giving this a try in beta, let us know via Fleep Support!

We hope you like the direction we’ve taken with Fleep Tasks! As always, feedback and requests are welcome via support@fleep.io . Let’s also stay in touch through our social media channels. We’re on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Instagram.

Fleep features released in 2017

Fleep features

It’s the end of the year, which means it’s time to review how we did in 2017. Nope, we’re not going to tell you about how many cups of coffee we consumed or how many slices of cake we had per team member… Let’s just  say our CEO loves cake, and our CTO probably has coffee running in his veins instead of blood.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what Fleep features were released in the last 12 months.

  • Tasks 2.0 and Event Stream API – this entailed a thorough rewrite of our message flow and Taskboards, behind-the-scenes enhancements to Fleep Tasks. This also included some preparation work for the long-awaited My Tasks feature (more about that later…).
  • Fleep for Business – in 2017, we had a dedicated team working on everything Fleep for Business-related. We launched Fleep for Business in September, and then added some more functionalities in the months that followed.
  • Trello integration – this long-awaited integration can be used to send updates from Trello cards and lists to a Fleep conversation. Read more: Introducing the Trello integration in Fleep!
  • appear.in integration – we built an integration with appear.in so you could create and join audio-video calls directly from Fleep. Read more: Voice and video calling in Fleep now with appear.in.
  • appear.in integration 2.0 – then, we upgraded our appear.in integration so you can start a call with any specific appear.in room by using the command /call roomname.
  • Team labels 2.0 – we made some changes to how team labels work and how you can use them to organize your conversations. Since the launch of Fleep Teams, every team created is accompanied by a team label that is automatically added to all team conversations. Now, you can also add the label to any other conversation as well. Your conversations, your rules.
  • Left pane rewrite – we rewrote the left pane (conversation list on the desktop version), improving the desktop conversation list and moving all search in Fleep to the left pane. As a part of these changes, we also said our farewell to the All Conversations view in the web app.
  • “New messages” animation – we introduced this animation to indicate when new messages have been marked as read.
  • Linux app – yes, Fleep for Linux was signed, sealed, delivered in 2017.
  • Mobile label management – labels help you organize your conversations in Fleep. This year, we made it possible to add and remove labels on the Android and iOS apps!
  • Server infrastructure reorganization – we split our servers onto more separate VMs, to better serve increasing server load.
  • Android push notifications 2.0 – as Android recently made some changes to how push notifications work, we had to make some changes to make sure our push notifications work seamlessly.
  • Storage limit – we have started calculating how much storage you have used, based on how many files you have access to – including both files you’ve uploaded and what have been shared with you.
  • Mute until read – now you have the option to mute conversations until you read them. Once you have read all messages, the conversation will be unmuted.
  • Other – we re-hauled our sign-up flow, which now works with code based verification, and also started work on message reactions.

Fleep features

What’s next?

We have made our plans for the next quarter, and set our focus on Tasks. We will work on task notifications that will alert the conversation when a task is completed and My Tasks, a view where you can see all tasks assigned to you, in one place (let us know through Support if you’d like to be a beta user for this!). After that, we will start working on due dates for our tasks. Additionally, we will work on some improvements to Fleep Teams, email conversations and managed conversations.

We hope you like the direction we are moving in. If you have any questions or feedback, don’t hesitate to contact us at support@fleep.io. Let’s also stay in touch through our social media channels. We’re on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Fleep for Business – now even more powerful!

Fleep for Business

Our Business subscription is perfect for managing risks – all Business users can sleep soundly knowing they have full admin control over their Fleep conversations. Since launching Fleep for Business in September, we’ve been listening to our users’ feedback and continued to improve the functionality offered with it. In short, we’ve been adding more advanced features to conversations and teams. Here’s an overview of what we’ve added to Fleep for Business in the last three months.

Admin rights in conversations

With Fleep for Business, admin rights are given to the creator of the managed conversation – or to the Fleep for Business user who configures the admin control setting.

One of the features we added recently is that all admins can also give admin rights to others in the managed conversation:

make admin

The only requirement is that the member they give admin rights also belongs to the same Fleep for Business organization. All you need to do is find the member actions in the Members list – and click on Make admin. Note that all organization and conversation admins can share the rights in the conversation.

All members can now leave managed conversations

The main value of managed conversations is that the admins have control over the membership, settings and message history. However, the limitation that members could not leave managed conversations seemed a little too crippling.

We do not want admin controls to create any unnecessary admin overhead – so we’ve made the change and now allow members to leave managed conversations even if they do not have admin rights.

Admins can delete any message

This is something a lot of our Fleep for Business users have requested. Now, everyone who has admin rights can delete any message in the conversation.

admin can delete message

As always in Fleep, this will leave a mark of who deleted the message, as well as who was the author of the deleted message. Please use responsibly.

Default settings when creating conversations and teams

Now, all group conversations, teams and team conversations created by Fleep for Business accounts are created as managed ones by default. This means the creator will have admin rights in the teams and conversations they create. If needed, the admin control setting can always be turned off. Note that all 1:1 conversations will still be created as regular, non-managed conversations.

Organization-wide team

All companies, big and small, have a way of communicating with all of their employees. We like to make sure that such communication can easily be done in Fleep. Organization-wide teams are a feature we’ve built exactly for this. Now, all Fleep for Business organizations have an organization-wide team. That is, all organizations have a team that has all of the organization’s accounts as members, and that membership is kept in sync.

organization-wide team

With organization-wide teams, you don’t have to worry about whether all of your company’s accounts have been included in the company-wide conversations. As long as those conversations have the organization-wide team added to them, every new member you add to your Fleep for Business subscription will automatically be added to the organization-wide team and its conversations. And vice versa – if you remove someone from your Fleep for Business organization, they will be also removed from the organization-wide team.

Improved receipts

We’ve gone through a few iterations of receipts in the last few months. Besides the obvious fixes like adding Fleep’s company details, your company’s VAT number and some necessary legal info to the receipts, we most recently also added the Billing period information, so it would be clear what period you have paid for. Do note that previously generated Receipts will not have this info – but if you need past receipts with Billing period info, contact us at support@fleep.io and we can re-generate the necessary receipts for you!

Anything else?

Well, yes of course. We are working on quite a few features that we’ll be adding to the Fleep for Business subscription over the coming months. More specifically, we’re working on a “Read-only” mode for managed conversations (where only admins can post messages), and on some some advanced task management features that will only be available to paying users. Stay tuned!

We hope you like the direction we’re going in! All feedback and requests are welcome, just shout out at us via support@fleep.io . Let’s also stay in touch through our social media channels. We’re on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Instagram.