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Checking e-mail vs. working productively

Feb 09, 20062 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging Apps

* Why do we open e-mail as soon as one arrives?

We all know that e-mail is the ‘killer’ application for most organizations and individual users, and is the one communications tool that most users turn to first when communicating with their fellow employees, prospects, customers, etc.

In the survey of 331 e-mail users we completed recently, some results of which we have discussed in previous newsletters, we asked users what percentage of the e-mail they receive do they open immediately. Interestingly, we found that nearly 60% of e-mails are opened as soon as they are received. This is particularly interesting in light of the fact that only 15% of the e-mail that a typical user receives is what they would consider to be critical, while 38% is considered important, but not critical. In other words, assuming that all of the critical and important e-mails are opened as soon as users receive them, some unimportant e-mails are also opened immediately upon receipt.

The survey also found that users spend a mean of 30% of their workday doing some sort of work in their e-mail client, such as checking e-mail, looking for attachments, looking for contacts, managing tasks and other activities. If we assume that someone works only eight hours each day, that means he or she spends nearly two-and-a-half hours working with e-mail.

Two things come out of these findings. First, as discussed in the last newsletters, e-mail filtering tools are very important in order to limit incoming to just those things that users want to see. Having to filter through lots of stuff that is unimportant just to find the e-mails that are most important or timely wastes productive time. Secondly, perhaps instant messaging should be viewed as a complement to e-mail instead of the competitor that many people perceive it to be. Using IM for critical or very time-sensitive information instead of e-mail might allow people to check their e-mail inbox less frequently and might help them to be more productive.

I’d like to get your thoughts on the role that e-mail and IM play in doing your work. Please drop me a line at