You’ve got mail!

A research study about email communication at work

Email is part of most of our lives. Since its creation in the 1970s, its growth has been unprecedented, facilitating quick and easy communication between people 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.

In order to understand more about how email both facilitates and negatively impacts the employee experience, we conducted a survey of just under 2,000 people across a variety of industries, sectors and job roles in the UK. Our aim was to explore 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.

What did we find?

  • We found a strong relationship between using ‘push’ email and perceived email pressure. This means that people who automatically receive email on their devices were more likely to report higher levels of email pressure.
  • People who leave their email on all day were much more likely to say that they experienced email pressure.
  • Checking email earlier in the morning or later at night is associated with higher levels of email pressure.
  • Managers experience significantly higher levels of email pressure when compared to non-managers.

Our research also highlighted some interesting group differences in the role personality plays in our experience of email and how email has the potential to both positively and negatively impact our work-life balance:

  • People who reported higher levels of email pressure also experienced greater interference between work and home – and home and work.
  • Your personality plays a key role in determining how much email pressure you feel and the extent to which it interferes with your work-life balance.

To find out more:

So, what should you do?

We know that everybody is different and therefore, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions for email. But what we are able to do is put forward a selection of practical actions that individuals and organisations can adopt, based on what works best for them given their individual circumstances.

This study represents an initial exploration of the impact of email on the experience of work. We are looking for organisations to partner with to conduct further research in this area.  If you would like your organisation to participate in research about email and productivity please contact us.

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Related posts

Help for individuals

To help you manage your email more effectively, we have divided our recommendations into two areas – behaviour changes (i.e. what you can do differently) and mindset changes (i.e. how you think about email).

Help for organisations

Our recommendations for organisations are aimed at those who set policy around the use of email and those in a position to act as role models for constructive use of email.