Over 50% of UK business users are unable to walk away from their emails, even when on leave or off sick, according to the results of Mesmo Consultancy’s latest research on email behaviour.
More than half of the 415 respondents check emails when out of the office and 12% check over 5 times a day. When questioned on the main reason for keeping in touch with the office, 67% admitted that it is purely self-inflicted whilst only 20% log in because their office expects them to do so. Couple these figures with the fact that 1 in 4 Britons works longer than 48 hours each week, as reported last month by the International Labour Organisation, and the picture painted of work / life balance is pretty bleak.
In a technology-enabled “always-on” society, where people are connected to their workplace 24/7, email addiction is rapidly becoming a widespread affliction, highlighted by the mushrooming number of internet sites and blogs suggesting rehab tips and techniques. As the Mesmo survey reported, only 17% of respondents give colleagues permission to deal with their emails in their absence and over 80% read every single email in their inbox.
“The role that email plays in office politics (CC and BCC being the most lethal weapons), the fear of missing something and being blamed for it, together with the amount of personal emails received at work addresses are surely accountable for the lack of delegation and obsessive inbox scanning behaviour, contributing directly to the addiction,” commented Dr. Monica Seeley, founder of Mesmo Consultancy. “Moreover, as the survey showed, the majority of users are expecting to receive a reply to a business email in less than 24 hours. And if a reply is sent immediately, that sets the expectation for the next round of communications, fostering a very reactive and rather unproductive way of working.”
Issues around work efficiency and productivity were even highlighted by the way in which the survey’s responses were collected. The research, conducted by email amongst 4000 UK business users with 66% of respondents at managerial/director level, attracted approximately half of the responses within the first hour of sending out the survey. This indicates that the majority of business users are willing to be distracted from the task in hand by emails landing in their inbox, breaking concentration with obvious loss of productivity as a consequence.