GFI Software has announced the findings of its third annual independent study into email user habits, which revealed that work email is encroaching into the personal lives and downtime of employees more than ever. Of those surveyed, some 47 per cent admit to checking work email at least once a day in their personal time, up six per cent, while 33 per cent admit checking multiple times a day or in real-time through pre-work mornings, evenings, weekends and days off. Furthermore, 43 per cent regularly check their work email after 11pm at night.
Following on from the findings of GFI’s inaugural 2013 study and the company’s 2014 follow-up research, this year’s survey examined how employees interact with email and the main obstacles to effective workplace email use. The biggest hindrance to everyday email use, according to 45 per cent of those surveyed: Spam. In second place, 28 per cent of those surveyed pointed to the habit some email senders have of unnecessarily CCing vast numbers of people, which creates high-volume ‘Reply All’ loops of unhelpful and difficult-to-navigate email traffic.
The blind, independent study was conducted for GFI Software by Opinion Matters, surveying 500 UK workers from companies with up to 500 employees.
Key findings from the survey include:
•Monitoring of work email outside of work hours is inescapable, with 73 per cent of those surveyed regularly checking their work email at weekends
•A further 58 per cent admit to checking work email while on holiday
•Almost one quarter (24 per cent) feel compelled to reply to work emails within 15 minutes of receipt
•In total, 72 per cent of respondents reply to work emails in under one hour, while just under three per cent take more than a week to reply
•Down five per cent from 2014, the survey found that 23 per cent of workers surveyed use their work email account for personal activities. The drop suggests increased concern over company monitoring of workplace email and Internet use
•Nearly 29 per cent of work email users surveyed do nothing to organise their email, including archiving, leaving all incoming mail in their Inbox
•Just under 18 per cent have had an argument at home due to them checking work email during family time.
While most of those replying to email are motivated to do so quickly, those receiving email do not expect such a fast response. Only 10 per cent of those surveyed expect a reply inside 15 minutes, while only 50 per cent expect a reply in one hour or less, far lower than those actually responding in that time.
“Setting and maintaining realistic boundaries between work and personal life is important to health, happiness and productivity. This balance is becoming harder than ever to accomplish due to the growth of tablets, smartphones, and now smart watches and in-car communications – all of which keep people wired into work even after they go home of an evening,” said Sergio Galindo, general manager of GFI Software.
“Companies can and should do more to address this and help staff achieve a sustainable work-life balance. Companies need to put tougher measures in place to tackle spam and malware, and to make archiving easier for people. They also need to set clear policies on acceptable use of work email, as well as regarding when to switch off – employees need to know it is OK to let work email that arrived after hours wait until the morningand that it is important to prioritise family time and relaxation,” Galindo added.
Email still the dominant communications method
For the third year running, survey respondents were asked to rank four business communications methods in order of preference. Email remains the most popular communications method, preferred by 44 per cent of those surveyed, although this is down seven per cent on last year and down four per cent on 2013.
Face-to-face meetings come second at 29 per cent, up 10 per cent on last year and also up four per cent on 2013. Meanwhile, the telephone (both fixed line and mobile) is still the third-most popular form of business communications, holding steady at 23 per cent for the third year running. Instant messaging is still an unpopular fourth, preferred by just over three per cent of the survey group.
“Despite the seeming challenges and inconveniences of work email, people continue to view it positively, with 86 per cent of those surveyed rating email a blessing rather than a curse. It is proof that email continues to be a technology people find convenient and effective both at work and at home,” Galindo added.
Comparisons with the US
The research was also conducted among the same survey sample in the US, with broadly similar results. Differences of note did include a higher proportion of users preferring instant messaging (eight per cent), a higher proportion of email checking during funerals (three per cent) and during child birth (four per cent), while fewer (12 per cent) have argued at home over checking work email out of hours.