The mounting flood of emails employees receive at work every day is becoming such a problem within workplaces that it’s hurting productivity and stressing people out, a new Canadian survey says.
According to Carleton University researchers, people now spend one-third of their time at the office – and half of the time they work at home – reading and answering emails. And 30 per cent of that time, the emails are neither urgent nor important.
That’s 11.7 hours spent at work and 5.3 hours at home — every week.
The survey asked 1,500 people across six organizations, most of whom were highly educated baby boomers and Gen-Xers. Almost all were managers or professionals who had been in their current jobs for a significant amount of time and had an average work week of 47.2 hours. Sixty per cent were women.
After looking over the results, the researchers found that workers send and receive an average of 86 work-related emails at work and 25 from home.
And all this time spent on emails alone is discouraging employees, impacting productivity and making people sick, the researchers said.
They also found that survey participants admitted to missing three days of work in a six-month period because of emotional fatigue, four days because of issues with child and/or elder care and almost five sick days.
On top of that, one in five had thought about leaving their jobs.
However, content manager at Monster Canada Arturo Gallo – who is not associated with the study – is surprised that the number of hours people reported spending on email isn’t higher.
“We, as office workers, we spend a lot of time on email and I think it’s all about the expectations we set around response time,” he said. “People expect a prompt and quick answer. To me, that always triggered this anxiety of responding fast.”
And it’s not only affecting workers but the productivity of a company as a whole, Gallo added.
“The more stressed [an employee is], the more they are connected to emails and work and it completely drains [an employee’s] productivity,” Gallo said.
Another study released earlier this year by The Radicati Group, a technology market research firm, looked at email exchanges within workplaces on a global scale.
The group estimates the number of business and consumer emails that will be sent and received per day in 2017 will be around 269 billion. That number will climb to about 320 billion by 2021.
They also say the average office worker receives 121 emails daily, almost 50 per cent of which is spam.
“I think nowadays we have to take our time and try to reply within a day if it isn’t urgent because otherwise, we’re going to go bananas,” Gall said. “We have to say no and when to stop as long as we don’t jeopardize our work and responsibilities.”
And Gallo believes it can be done, citing France as an example of a country promoting work-life balance with its population.
On Jan. 1, France established a new law in which workers have the right to disconnect. The law applies to companies with more than 50 employees and requires employers to establish certain hours in which staff should not engage with their email, Fortune reports.
The goal of the law, Fortune reports, is to ensure employees are fairly paid for their work, as well as prevent workers from burning out and encouraging private time away from work.
It’s something that hasn’t happened in Canada yet, but Gallo says companies here are looking into adopting similar practices.
“As employers, we should encourage our employees to disconnect on weekends and vacation time,” Gallo said. “Work will always be there and the emails aren’t going to go anywhere.”