Mark Ellwood’s Brainy Blog of Fascinating Facts and Timely Tips

The Burden of E-Mail

All, Research Reports

Based on data from a number of our time and motion consulting projects, e-mail is indeed the burden that many employees believe it to be.

Using our TimeCorder device, employees tracked their time on a number of activities, many of which involved using e-mail. We also asked them to track miscellaneous e-mails, that is correspondence that was not connected to priority activities such as managing, selling, or providing customer service.

These included all of the non-value added e-mails that employees need to sort through; internal announcements, queries from co-workers, items forwarded fyi, meeting confirmations and others.

Across a broad number of knowledge workers, these miscellaneous e-mails added up to 3.9 hours per week, much more than the 2.4 hours that employees said they would ideally like to spend on these. Those with activities outside of the office face a larger burden; 4.5 hours per week for field supervisors and 6.2 hours per week for sales reps. Remember: there is a lot more time spent on value-added emails – this is just the “stuff.”

Many of these e-mails are avoidable. Employees find themselves overwhelmed by dozens, if not hundreds of e-mails per day. Curiously though, while everyone complains about the volume of incoming e-mail, few will admit to being the culprits for sending it out.

Remember, if you send out one e-mail and copy twenty people, you have in effect sent out twenty e-mails.

Employees can make better choices to control their incoming e-mail.

  • Take yourself off distribution lists.
  • Avoid the use of the Reply All function.
  • Stop saying “Thanks”. Fellow workers already know that you are an appreciative colleague.
  • Ask subordinates not to copy you without including a cover note
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters that are really extended sales pitches
  • Don’t try to persuade someone through e-mail. Use a phone or meeting instead.
  • Keep your messages short. Avoid telling stories.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *