How much of your e-mail is important?

* What proportion of your e-mail is important?

We recently completed a survey with 331 e-mail users in small, midsize and large companies. One of the issues we wanted to investigate was the proportion of e-mail that was important to recipients vs. stuff that they considered to be unimportant or spam.

We found that of the median 50 e-mails (mean of 85) received per user on a typical day, only 15% of these e-mails are what users would consider to be 'really critical' e-mails, while another 38% of them are important, but not what recipients would consider to be critical. Another 21% are opt-in bulk e-mail, such as newsletters, marketing material and related information that users want to receive, but that don't rise to the level of 'important' e-mails.

Another 11% of e-mails received are miscellaneous office chatter, such as lunch requests, office jokes and the like. The last 17% of e-mails received are spam. (Please note that there is some rounding error in these figures.)

Not surprisingly, users in smaller organizations receive more spam than users in midsize or large organizations. This is due primarily to the fact that larger organizations generally have more IT resources available to them and so implement more robust anti-spam tools. Further, the per-user cost of providing e-mail threat management tools in larger organizations is significantly lower than for smaller ones. Interestingly, there is very little difference in the number of 'really critical' e-mails received based on organization size.

One of the things the study points out is the need for organizations to implement tools that can help users sort out the e-mail that they absolutely must review vs. the stuff that they can review at a later time or ignore. For example, tools like DYS Analytics' Control Guardian can help organizations enforce corporate policies with regard to inappropriate e-mail use and reduce the amount of 'chatter' that takes place in e-mail. Desktop-based productivity tools like Caelo Software's NEO can help users organize their inboxes by offering a variety of criteria to aid in this effort.

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