How effective are we really at handling email?

Posted: 20th April, 2016 in Business writing & email etiquette, Communications, Customer Service, Motivation, Personal effectiveness, Strategy & planning, Time Management, Tips & Tricks, Training and mentoring

We live in a technology age where many companies have become to rely heavily on email to successfully run their business; especially as customers have access to emails on-the-go and at any time. 

As a result, staff are spending more time working on email than on many other tasks, including picking up the telephone and talking to customers or colleagues.

Yet, I wonder, have we ever stopped to ask ourselves how effective are we at handling email?  Do we know how much time we actually spend on email and if we are losing time?

A few years ago, a University in Glasgow carried out research to measure and assess employees usage of email, how they feel about it and how it affects their working day

Initially employees were asked to estimate how often they checked their email each hour. Half the people said they checked it more than once an hour with another 35% saying they looked at it every 15 minutes.

When asked how they felt about email, 34% of staff felt stressed by email. Another 28% experienced a certain pressure from email and just the remaining 38% feeling a lot more relaxed about it.

The participant’s computers were fitted with monitoring software and the results showed that staff typically switched applications to check their emails up to 30 to 40 times an hour lasting from a few seconds to a minute.

The alarming result was that over two thirds of email alerts got a reaction within 6 seconds, with the average person waiting just one minute and 44 seconds before responding.

Human nature is that we are all a bit curious. When an email comes in we stop what we are doing to check who it’s from and what it is about. However, the difficulty is that we loose our train or thought each time. This makes us more tired and less productive.

They say that the average person sends and receives between 50 and 100 emails per day with some people receiving even more. With all this stopping and starting, how disruptive is email really?

Every time an email distracts us, we lose an average of 64 seconds. If you think about it, we could easily be losing between 1 and 2 hours per day on email interruptions. So, what can we do to minimise this pressure? Here are a few of my own thoughts:

  • Switch off the pop-up email alert that appears in the left hand corner of your screen announcing “You have mail
  • Be prepared to pick up the phone and talk to people – it can be quicker
  • Set time aside in blocks when you will spend on emails just like you would attend a meeting
  • Process emails from the top and work your way to the bottom and save time
  • Prioritise your emails just like you would the rest of your work
  • Block out other distractions when you allocate your time to email
  • Pre-empt customers questions & provide information – preventing emails going back & forth
  • Think before you reply all
  • Stop being too available by responding to everyone else’s spurious emails
Share this article:

< back to blog