Workers spend 11 hours crafting emails each week — Only 36% ever get read!

NEW YORK — Tired of writing emails? You are far from alone. The typical employee dedicates nearly 11 hours a week just to crafting emails. Unfortunately, a new survey finds much of this work might be in vain! A survey involving 8,000 small business employees, equally distributed between the United States and the United Kingdom, reveals that these workers compose an average of 112 emails weekly, dedicating slightly more than five and a half minutes to each one. However, respondents believe that only 36 percent of their emails are fully read and understood.

The evidence for this lies in the common issues faced by the participants: 62 percent say their queries often go unanswered, 51 percent have been addressed by an incorrect name, and 49 percent receive questions they had already answered.

Respondents also admit their own lapses in email etiquette. Fifty-seven percent confess to avoiding emails exceeding eight sentences. Moreover, they typically disregard or delete emails based on their subject lines about eight times daily. This lack of attention has its consequences, with 45 percent of respondents missing important events like meetings or deadlines due to overlooked emails.

Is email already old-fashioned?

The survey, spearheaded by Slack and conducted by OnePoll, probed deeper into the realm of email and pondered potential alternatives. A considerable 46 percent of participants view email as a “dated mode of communication.” Their frustrations stem from several common inbox complaints: Emails mistakenly labeled as spam (53%), being inundated with irrelevant emails (50%), challenges in discerning tone (47%), and perceived pressure to maintain formality (45%).

infographic with a woman sitting at a desk, shows that people spend nearly 11 hours crafting emails
(Credit: SWNS)

Generational differences in these perceptions were also evident. For instance, younger participants feel more pressured to keep communications formal, with 57 percent of Gen Z and 46 percent of millennials echoing this sentiment. That’s compared to just 37 percent of Gen X and 34 percent of baby boomers. Younger generations also express stronger sentiments that emails are often a waste of time.

Employees are allocating nearly 11 hours a week to writing emails, many of which are either overlooked or misinterpreted. Email is a mode of communication that doesn’t resonate with contemporary workplace dynamics,” says spokesperson Ali Rayl, SVP Product Management at Slack, in a statement. “Embracing more efficient communication methods can pave the way for more meaningful, productive tasks.”

Tedious tasks

Many participants think their organizations clung to email because it’s cost-effective (55%) and rooted in tradition (53%). However, one in three believe it’s simply because their companies aren’t aware of alternatives. Over half of the respondents feel burdened with trivial tasks like email correspondence, spanning across generational lines. When probed about tasks hindering their success, top responses include sifting through unrelated emails (51%), replying to emails (47%), and locating necessary internal data (38%).

Interestingly, 36 percent believe they would be more productive if their companies reduced their reliance on email. Additionally, 46 percent agree that heavy email usage indicates technological stagnation, while 49 percent wish for a shift to other communication platforms.

The survey also touches upon artificial intelligence (AI) tools. Over four in 10 felt AI could boost their productivity, whereas only nine percent anticipated a negative impact. The primary allure of AI was instant responses (50%), followed by staying competitive (47%), and eliminating repetitive tasks (47%).

“The nature of work has evolved, presenting us with platforms and tools tailored for efficiency. Integrating communication tools, increasingly inclusive of AI, cultivates improved connectivity, clarity, and less wasted time. It ensures vital information remains accessible to everyone,” adds Rayl.

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 8,000 respondents — employees of small businesses with less than 200 employees; desk-based workers, a mix of in-office, hybrid, and remote who send/receive emails — was commissioned by Slack between Aug. 11 and Aug. 31, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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Lea la versión en español en Los trabajadores pasan 11 horas redactando correos electrónicos cada semana, ¡solo el 36% llega a leerse!

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