Work days can be stressful, especially when emails endlessly pop up, filling in-boxes, each message demanding attention.
A new study from Carleton University surveyed 1,500 people from six organizations, and discovered more than half reported high levels of work overload and stress, with much of that connected to the time –a full one third of it– reading and replying to emails.
Furthermore, these men and women devote 50 per cent of their time to email when working from home, while 30 per cent of the time those messages are neither urgent nor important.
Some respondents reported it is unrealistic for them to be expected to answer every email received throughout the course of a day.
Authors Linda Duxbury and Andre Lanctot said these results suggest organizations must determine how to best help employees cope with widespread email overload and reduce volume through the use of appropriate policies, training, and enforcement.
The typical survey respondent was a well-educated baby boomer, and most were managers or professionals who spent a large amount of time at his or her current job. Sixty per cent of the respondents were women.
These people worked 47.2 hours a week on average, with 92 per cent also working from home, which equaled an additional 9.5 hours each week.
So, exactly how much extra pressure were emails placing on their shoulders?
Each day, they send and receive 86 work-related emails while at work, and 25 from home. This breaks down to each week the “typical” knowledge worker spends 11.7 hours processing email at work and 5.3 hours from home, for a total of 17 hours, which is a third of their work week.
A few of the suggestions from respondents to counteract this problem included investing in better spam blockers, develop workplace policy that spells out who should send what to whom and when, and to offer training about tools to manage email.
Perhaps the solution to this issue is utilizing services such as Slack, a next-gen version of Internet Relay Chat that helps groups of co-workers exchange instant messages and swap electronic files. It already boasts a customer base of 1.25 million users.
Created by Stewart Butterfield, Slack is rapidly increasing in popularity due to it minimizing the need for email. From casual check-ins, to corporation-wide announcements, and sharing photos, Slack has become the place where office workers can chat and learn from one another; as well, it’s effective for feeling part of the work community, said Seth Stevenson in a Wall Street Journal Magazine article.
Stevenson said Slack’s biggest selling point is that it’s an email killer.
“Email’s a horrible way to communicate within a big organization, as each new message that comes in receives equal weight in your in-box, whether it’s earth-shattering news or a notice that the coffee machine is on the fritz again,” he said.
Firms that start using Slack report they send nearly 50 per cent less email, resolving issues inside different channels on Slack instead, explained Stevenson.
“Workers save time that was once spent deleting emails like, say, “Subj: Anyone heading out to lunch?” and can instead peek into the “Lunch” channel on Slack if they’re looking for a sandwich buddy.”