Friend or foe? How do you feel about email?

Blue-email-280pxEmail is a big part of our lives. Since its creation in the 1970s, its growth has been unprecedented, facilitating quick and easy communication between individuals across borders and time zones, for both business and personal use.

But despite its widespread usage and popularity as a communication tool, for some individuals and employers, it can be a source of major frustration, anxiety and lost productivity. As the volume of email continues to rise, many of us are feeling the impact – struggling to prioritise work effectively and constantly being interrupted by the flow of messages and demands, resulting in decreased productivity and stress.

At the Future Work Centre, we’re interested in understanding how technology impacts our working lives. So, when we started to consider topics for our first year’s research focus – Technology at Work – it came as no surprise that top of the team’s list was email. Which incidentally, we discussed via email!

‘How can I keep on top of my email?’ is a question we’ve often heard at work – and one we’ve even asked ourselves. Advice on how to ‘manage’ email more effectively is not in short supply – but have you ever wondered if any of it actually works or why you sometimes get conflicting opinions?

One thing that workplace research has demonstrated over the last fifty years, is that it’s very rare for one solution to suit all employees. This has never been more true as how and where we work is changing, as well as the diverse nature of the workforce itself.

We chose to focus on email because of its challenging nature. The power to make work easier and more efficient, combined with the power to distract, upset and stress – a double-edged sword if you like. Given its widespread use, we believe that, like all tools, it should be used appropriately for best results.

We conducted a survey of c2,000 people across a variety of industries, sectors and job roles in the UK, in order to understand how email both facilitates and negatively impacts the employee experience. We investigated whether factors such as technology, behaviour, demographics, work-life balance and personality play a role in our perceptions of email pressure and consequently in our coping strategies.

To read our findings and advice on improving the experience of email, download our research report, You’ve got mail!.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore the impact of email further through a series of blog posts. We’ll look at the research that helps us make sense of it, along with some advice for individuals and organisations on how to use email most appropriately.

In the meantime, let us know what you think about email in the comments section below. Is it your friend or your foe?

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