Is voicemail on its way out? Coca-Cola staff switch off to boost productivity

Many young workers see voicemail as excessively time-consuming

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The Independent Online

Good news for anyone who has wasted minutes listening to rambling messages on their phone; voicemail appears to be on the way out.

Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity.

The US soft drinks giant said just six per cent of employees at its Atlanta headquarters had opted to keep their voicemails switched on. The rest will now pick up messages solely via text or email.

Coca-Cola’s move comes amid growing backlash against voicemail messages, which many young workers in particular see as excessively time-consuming.

Professor Mark Skilton, an expert in information systems management at Warwick Business School, said studies had shown that voice messages take far longer to process than written ones.

“If you have to go through and listen to 20 voicemails – to do that laboriously at half a minute or a minute each – that would take about six times longer than just scrolling through 20 texts,” he told The Independent.

“We are information rich but time poor and that information richness is being eroded by less efficient ways to collect information. It’s absolutely all about productivity and a change in behaviour of the next generation - the ‘millennials’ are just not prepared to wait.”

He added that there had already been a “silent shift” away from voicemail by many smaller companies and Coca-Cola’s decision was significant as a sign that more traditional firms were starting to follow suit.

In a statement, Coca-Cola said: “Employees were given the option to turn off their voicemail systems at the Atlanta Office Complex and our Coca-Cola Technology Plaza, and only six per cent opted to keep the voicemail. This action is aimed at streamlining preferences and simplifying systems.”

It said cost was not the “main driver” behind the idea, saying it would probably save the company less than about £64,000 a year.

American science-fiction author John Scalzi gave up the “hateful contrivance” of voicemail in January last year.

The message on his phone now warns callers that he will “never ever ever ever listen to the voicemail you’re about to leave, because voicemail is a pain in the ass” and suggests sending him an email or a text instead.

“A decade and a half into the 21st century, I think everybody recognises that voicemail is a horribly inefficient way of doing this [communicating],” he told The Independent.

In 2012, the internet phone company Vonage reported that the number of voice-mail messages left on user accounts was down eight per cent in July from a year ago.

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