Employees Waste 24 Percent of Their Day on Useless Email

No, the title of this post is not an exaggeration.

Email is a huge time suck. Many of us feel stuck on a perpetual hamster wheel of back and forth communication.

Here’s how I calculated that scary number:

A 2012 McKinsey study found that the average knowledge worker spends 28 percent of their day responding to email. 

A 2012 study from Mimecast found that 86 percent of the emails we receive are useless.

So, 86 percent of 28 percent = 24 percent of our day wasted. Ouch.

What’s causing this problem? There seem to be a few culprits.

One challenge is time pressure.

My latest research on email response time expectations revealed a new one hour standard for replying to email sent by customers and co-workers.

Those expectations pressure us into responding quickly without putting much thought into what we’re writing. 

A 2014 analysis by Front revealed that people average 4.5 emails per conversation. All that back and forth is pretty inefficient.

People expect fast responses, but actual response times are much longer:

  • Most businesses still adhere to a one business day standard (source: TPS).
  • The average response time for individuals is 27 hours (source: Front).

That triggers a lot of “Did you get my email?” calls, texts, IMs, and emails. More clutter.

Here are a few more examples of email time sucks:

  • 19 percent of email is spam (source: Radicati)
  • Reply all abusers
  • Updates on the status of cake in the conference room
  • Checking email constantly
  • Email alerts that remind you to check email constantly

So, what can we do about it?

Check out my Google Hangout with customer service writing expert Leslie O'Flahavan. Most of the interview focuses on how businesses can do a better job of responding to customers, but she has some terrific advice for co-workers towards the end of the 30 minute interview.