Cape Town – People's reliance on e-mail is turning them into ‘Inbox Workers’ who spend the majority of their time on e-mail and less time on social media at work, according to new research launched by Mimecast.
The research, the second in Mimecast’s Shape of E-mail series, surveyed 2 500 information workers in the US, UK and SA to explore the average employee’s attitudes to, and frustrations with, e-mail.
The report found that on average a worker will use e-mail for four hours per day; equivalent to more than 37 full 24-hour days over a working year, 111 working days, or 888 working hours, Christelle Hicklin, customer experience manager at Mimecast South Africa, told News24.
She said on average, e-mail users receive 32 e-mails a day, containing 4.5MB of data in total.
One in four users reported high levels of satisfaction with their e-mail functionality and one in three expected email and social media to converge in the next five years.
"It is clear that e-mail needs to evolve if it is to cope with the demands of modern day workers who see e-mail not just as a communications tool but as a file store, search engine and a collaboration platform," Hicklin said.
Eighty-six percent of users surveyed rely on e-mail as a search tool to find documents or information from within their inbox or archive. Despite this, one in two (49%) believe that e-mail is reducing the need for other file storage systems.
The use of work e-mail has been unaffected by social media as people use it primarily for personal use.
The Shape of Email found that e-mail is preferred over social media for all forms of workplace collaboration, including documentation exchange (preferred by 91% of respondents), arranging a meeting (preferred by 89%), requesting information (88%) and sharing views and opinions (72%)
Around 74% of workers believe that information shared in an e-mail is taken more seriously than information shared through social media.
While 39% of information workers regularly send and receive workplace e-mail outside of working hours, 25% of e-mail users admit that they have sent e-mails late in the evening purely to “show commitment”.
Some 75% say that they have sent e-mails they have later regretted, with 40% having deleted e-mails they shouldn’t have.
Even more worryingly, 10% of those surveyed admitted to having read e-mails in other people’s inboxes.
People like to be copied on e-mails, even if they are non-essential messages.
Nearly half (45%) of e-mail users believe that it is useful to be copied on e-mails internally with 35% saying that they find Cc e-mail a really useful way of staying on top of external communications. Just one in five (21%) believe that Cc e-mail is overused within their company.
Hicklin said this might explain why 40% of all emails received are considered to be functional or of low value and just 14% of all emails received are considered business critical.
According to her the research showed that the way the average employee uses email at work has changed.
“For many people, email is no longer just a messaging system. It has become the primary tool for storing, sharing and searching for information. This is why we are seeing people increasingly relying on email for all aspects of their job and spend on average 50% of their working day using email.
“What is clear is that, despite the huge number of specialist collaboration and social tools that have come to market in recent years, email remains the first choice for the majority of business users,” Hicklin said.
“While email is not perfect, it seems that information workers are reluctant to adopt other, more social, tools if it means they have to leave their inbox behind. Therefore, rather than trying to entice users away from email and on to other platforms, IT teams should look for ways to make their email more efficient by introducing new, inbox-friendly collaboration tools and making the data stored within the archive more accessible.”
Hicklin said organisations and businesses should start being more intelligent and control what reaches workers. They must have tools in place to filter emails, this way only relevant emails will reach workers.
"People can also get training on how to manage their emails effectively."