In 2017, a study found that the average inbox had 199 unread emails. And here, almost 16 months into remote work for many white-collar employees, inboxes have only become more bloated.
But younger workers, who were disproportionately hard-hit by the instability of the pandemic, appear to be reassessing their professional priorities. And maybe they will really be able to do what the work of Mr. Newport — who at 39 is on the elder cusp of millennial — has not been able to do.
Harrison Stevens, 23, started a vintage clothing company while attending the University of Oregon and opened a brick-and-mortar location after graduating in 2020. He started giving clients his personal number and has them text or call him, which he says helps alleviate the load but introduces a new problem of not having clear work-life balance.
Emailing is “almost like a social anxiety people have,” Mr. Stevens said. “I think a lot of people find it easier and more convenient to send a text than compose an email. It almost feels like there are other eyes looking, like, I have to be so professional in this setting and make sure everything is perfect,” he says, noting that there’s something less formal about using your fingers and thumbs on a phone keyboard, rather than a computer keyboard.
For some people, adding texting can complicate communication, introducing multiple ways to be expected to get in touch with someone.
Aurora Biggers, 22, a journalist who recently graduated from George Fox University, said she used to give out her personal number but was getting so many texts that it was infringing on personal time. She thinks her generation is less inclined to use email as their main form of communication. While she likes the work-home boundaries that email offers, she said what she finds most difficult is that there isn’t one standard form of communication. The main problem with email then is not necessarily that there is too much of it, but there is too much competition.
“It’s impossible to expect email to be the main form of communication because so many people aren’t working office jobs or are sitting in an office with an email notification coming through,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the most relevant way to expect people to communicate with you.”