How employees use business email

The conventional 9am-5pm working day and five-day working week is a thing of the past for the overwhelming majority of workers at SMBs, according to a new survey on work-related email habits.

Due to the widespread availability and use of smartphones and tablets, email is more accessible than ever and, as a result, it has become deeply embedded in the daily workplace and personal lives of most employees.

The independent, blind survey of 500 employees in SMB workplaces in the UK was conducted by Opinion Matters. The results highlight employee habits around email usage, including response frequency during the work day as well as after hours.

The new 24/7 paradigm:

  • Based on the typical email habits of survey respondents, work and home life have become tightly intertwined. Three quarters (74.6%) said they check their work email on weekends, 44% check work email after 11pm and 54% (53.7%) keep on top of their work email while on vacation.
  • Over 7% of respondents (7.5%) admitted checking work email while attending a child’s school event, while 10% have checked work email during a wedding. Over 6% (6.3%) said they logged into their work email while their spouse was in labour.

Email used at the office more than any other form of communication:

  • Despite the growing use of instant messaging and texting, email dwarfs other forms of office communication. The survey revealed 49% (48.8%) of respondents use email for work more than any other communications format, with a quarter (25%) still preferring face-to-face meetings as their primary communications method at work, and 24% (23.6%) still opting for phone calls. Only 2.6% of those surveyed prefer to use instant messaging.
  • Email is a constant presence in the work lives as well as the home lives of SMB workers. Three quarters (74.6%) of respondents said they typically reply to emails within one hour during work hours, while nearly a third (28.8%) reply within 15 minutes.
  • The largest companies surveyed (250-500 employees) are the fastest to respond to email (42.5%).
  • Outside of regular work hours, 11% said they check their email in real time and over a quarter (27.4%) check email at least several times a day.

An organisational and business intelligence tool:

  • Many employees use email for more than just communicating. Half of those surveyed (49.2%) use it as a means of storing and retrieving information to access in the future.
  • 66% of respondents use specific folders to organise their email for easier access and a third (31.4%) archive their email.
  • Surprisingly, only 16% say they use their email as a business intelligence tool, identifying a massive missed opportunity to extract value from email data.

Regional differences:

  • Employees in the East of the UK are the quickest to respond to email, with 44% replying within 15 minutes of an email arriving.
  • Users in Yorkshire are the most impatient email users, with 20.6% expecting a reply within 15 minutes.
  • Yorkshire users are also the most likely to use a work email account for personal email (38.2%).
  • Staff in the South East are most likely to check email multiple times a day, the highest regional example.
  • 14.3% of respondents in Northern Ireland have checked email while their spouse was in labour, the highest regional example, while 59.6% of respondents in the Midlands have checked work email after 11pm, the highest regional example by a substantial margin.
  • 15% of respondents in Wales have checked work email at a wedding.

Overwhelmingly, email is regarded positively, not negatively:

  • By a wide margin and regardless of its omnipresence in daily life, workers appreciate the value of email. An astonishing nine in ten respondents (93%) said email is a “blessing,” with the remaining 7% considering it a “curse.”
  • The smallest companies surveyed, those with one to nine employees, were the least positive about email, while companies sized 50-99 employees were the most positive.

Despite all the stresses and strains that a deluge of email can bring, it is still preferred to the way we used to work.

“Email has transformed the way we do business globally, but has also had a fundamental impact on work/life balance for many employees, especially in smaller organisations where speed of response to orders and queries is critical in retaining competitive advantage against larger competition,” said Phil Bousfield, GM IT Operations at GFI Software. “The research results have affirmed how critical it is for organisations to manage the use of email effectively, not only to prevent employees from being overwhelmed by a deluge of data, but also to ensure that email is exploited as a revenue generator and benefit to the business, rather than an inconvenience.”

“The research also revealed some worrying trends, including that many organisations are failing to efficiently use their collected email archives for customer relationship management and other business intelligence functions, and that many users are putting their email at risk by maintaining unnecessarily large Outlook PST repositories in order to use their inbox as a living database. This is both inefficient and puts the organisation at risk of substantial data loss from email archive corruption,” Bousfield added.

Don't miss