June 8, 2012
Handling Email Overload: New Research Reveals Banning Email in the Workplace Wrong Approach to Email Overload — Etiquette Identified as Key to Improve Work-Life Balance and Productivity
A trend among global companies that eliminates or limits internal email to employees is a misguided strategy, based on research released this week by The Grossman Group, a communications consultancy, and LCWA Research Group. Results of the 2012 work-related email perception study, Enough Already! Stop Bad Email, show that while middle managers typically spend 100 hours (6,000 minutes) a year on irrelevant email, they don't want their ability to use email taken away or interrupted at any time of the day or night. They do, however, want policies that address the overwhelming volume of irrelevant email. "We've seen companies around the world experimenting with email black-outs or time-outs. However, our research reveals that's not the most effective approach. We know employees are overloaded by their inboxes and it's causing them stress, yet our research shows [that] it's email misbehaviors that need to be addressed," said David Grossman, communication expert, author, founder and CEO of The Grossman Group, in a news release. "Just as important, leaders must establish guidelines, which are in line with company culture, for how email should be used. For example, one expectation might be that in the general course of business, email does not need to be answered outside business hours, unless specifically directed because of an urgent business need."
- Executives (84 percent), middle managers (83 percent), supervisors (84 percent) and employees (77 percent) overwhelmingly agree email is an effective and necessary communication tool.
- Only 8 percent of executives, 15 percent of middle managers, 10 percent of supervisors and 11 percent of employees said limiting email during normal business hours would be very effective.
- Only 11 percent of executives, 20 percent of middle managers, 8 percent of supervisors and 13 percent of employees said limiting email outside normal business hours would be very effective.
- Only 3 percent of executives, 12 percent of middle managers, 7 percent of supervisors and 7 percent of employees said eliminating email outside business hours would be very effective.
Respondents rated reasons why they want flexibility to access work-related email after hours including:
- Making sure nothing is missed (52 percent of middle managers, 51 percent of supervisors and 48 percent of employees)
- Preparing for the upcoming day (51 percent of middle managers, 45 percent of supervisors and 47 percent of employees)
- Read/respond to emails that couldn't be addressed during normal business hours (47 percent of middle managers, 40 percent of supervisors and 40 of percent employees)
- Lessen the workload for the following day (44 percent of middle managers, 45 percent of supervisors and 39 percent of employees)
"The goal of this research was to better understand how a cross-section of Corporate America feels about email in their workplace and how they use it," said Greg Gordon, senior vice president of research and strategy at LCWA Research Group, in the release. "We wanted to gather insights that would inform strategies for solutions in a way that helps communicators meet the needs and work habits of all employees."
While respondents said they don't want access to email interrupted, they do want policies that address the overwhelming volumes of irrelevant emails. Middle managers are most affected (middle managers spend 6,000 minutes a year on irrelevant email, while supervisors spend 5,250 minutes a year and employees spend 4,250 minutes a year).
Sixty-one percent of executives and 55 percent of middle managers said that email policies would be very effective in their organization.
Respondents identified their top issues with work-related emails as: 1) excessive back-and-forth replies 2) using email when a meeting/phone call is more appropriate 3) unnecessary use of "reply all" 4) poorly written emails that lack clarity and 5) copying others unnecessarily.
The web-based survey included 1,300 respondents comprised of corporate executives within Fortune 1,000 companies, middle managers, supervisors and non-supervising employees.