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Email retains grip on business despite time burden, survey finds

Are you a filer, a hoarder or hybrid?

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Many business users are still being forced to spend the equivalent of a morning per week keeping an often stressful deluge of email under control, a survey by Varonis has found.

The company’s survey of 92 organisations of a range of company sizes and job titles found that a third of workers said they received a maximum of 50 emails per day with another 45 percent receiving up to 100.

On the face of it this is not too bad but a further 18 percent mentioned up to 300 per day with a hard-pressed 5 percent in mostly senior positions receiving a staggering maximum of 500 per day.

CEOs get the most email of all but probably have paid help managing and replying to some of it.

When it came to the time these emails consumed, nearly one in four reckoned up to an hour per day with 17 percent citing over an hour. Even the lower of these two figures implies the equivalent of more than two days per month spent reading and replying to emails.

Email is regularly said to be in some kind of decline as newer messaging forms, especially social media and texting take over the load. This research hints that the mobile nature of email – many business users consumer email from smartphones – might be heading off a more general decline in the importance of PC-based messaging.

However, email might not always be the overbearing medium of lore with businesses across the size spectrum now seeing it “as much a part of the office environment as cube walls and furniture.”

Whether the volume of email or time spent on it matters probably depends on an employee’s reaction to it, Varonis said.

Some workers “file” emails efficiently while other simply “hoard,” that is refuse to delete anything. Many people are a mixture of the two known as “hybrids”.

"Whether they are distracted by a host of different media or simply slaving away to deal with their inboxes, if employees can’t regain control of the volumes of work they are bombarded with they are likely to make mistakes," commented Varonis vice president of strategy, David Gibson.

At the extremes are those for whom email has become out of control. This can manifest itself as devoting too much time to email in an attempt to stay ahead of matters or simply giving up and ignoring it.

"We see a growing trend of people struggling and in some cases even giving up on - or deleting - their entire inboxes," he said.

Irrespective of volume, email does come with a number of well-known downsides including group emails sent to large number of people (who amplify the problem by replying), emails sent to the wrong people in error, and “inappropriate jokes” that are not appreciated by all recipients.

Such mishaps can have serious consequences. Although embarrassment is the most common outcome, 12 percent of respondents mentioned that the senders had lost their jobs as a result with just under 8 percent recalling lost promotions.

In a modest irony presumably not lost on Varonis, getting the full report of these findings requires visitors to fill in a registration form on the company’s website. Will that result in marketing email? Impossible to say but don’t say you weren’t warned.


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