Despite the many movements to eradicate email over the past decade, it nevertheless continues to reign as the primary means of corporate communication. Even with the steadily increasing use of collaboration apps like Teams and Slack, some research shows that daily email traffic has increased by 5 percent each year since 2015.
But that doesn’t mean your business has to suffer. On the contrary—Microsoft Outlook, the de facto email client for most businesses, is a productivity powerhouse. Microsoft has consistently improved it over the years and continues to add new features and functionality on a regular basis.
Many of the recent changes to Outlook are geared toward simplifying communication and collaboration. Here are four of the best:
- @Mentions: Context-switching and other interruptions are detrimental to productivity. According to an often-referenced University of California Irvine study, it takes about 23 minutes and 15 seconds to resume work after an interruption. The Office 365 @Mentions feature—available in Outlook, as well as in PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and Teams—is designed to reduce the need for context-switching and costly interruptions.
To get someone’s attention in an email or meeting request, employees need only type the @ symbol followed by the person’s name in the message body or meeting invitation details. Outlook will automatically highlight the mention, plus include the person in the To line of the message or the meeting invite. Recipients will see an @ symbol next to the message in their inbox and can use @Mentions as search/filter criteria.
- Send availability: Setting up a meeting without the ability to see other people’s calendars usually results in a flurry of messages and not much else. It’s inefficient and often frustrating. With Outlook’s Send Availability feature, users can send a copy of their calendar to external colleagues. Users can specify date range, level of detail, layout, and other options. The calendar is sent to the recipient as an .ics file, which they can open in Outlook or another program to view it side-by-side with their own calendars.
- Quick steps: Sometimes when working with messages, employees must take the same specific steps—for example, forwarding a message to a manager and saving a copy in a particular folder. With Quick Steps, employees can save time by automating such repetitive tasks.
- Attachments: In the recent past, sending attachments and collaborating on files with colleagues was an arduous task. Because each person edited a separate document, confusion, redundancy, and wasted time were usually part of the process. Outlook’s attachment functionality has matured in recent years—the ability to attach links instead of separate files has radically transformed the editing and collaboration process.
In addition to the tools listed above, Outlook includes a range of features that are designed to streamline work—and, with every update, Microsoft adds more. Continuous learning is key to ensuring your employees get the most out of the technology—one-and-done instruction is not enough. Keep an eye on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap to stay on top of new features and functionality and any other changes that could impact your employees’ productivity.
According to recent research,
the average employee receives more than 125 emails every day and spends more
than a quarter of the work week reading or responding to emails.
By providing them with the right training and support, you enable employees to stay
productive no matter their workload.
 People have been trying to fix or eradicate email for about as long as it has been in use. For further reading, see: “Quality Versus Quantity: E-Mail-Centric Task Management and Its Relation with Overload,” Human-Computer Interaction, 2005, Volume 20, pp. 89–138; and “Some Companies are Banning Email and Getting More Done,” Harvard Business Review, 6/8/2016
 Source: The Radicati Group, www.radicati.com
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.