Meet Sarah, a hardworking project manager in a bustling office. She’s eager to start her day, but her email inbox stands in her way. Every morning, like many of us, she faces a flood of messages.
But Sarah’s story is just one example of a common issue.
Email is essential for work but can also be a huge time-waster. Think about all the hours your employees spend sorting through emails every day. It’s an inconvenience many of us know well.
In this article, we’ll dig into the actual cost of your employees checking emails. We’ll examine facts and stories and reveal how email check affects productivity, stress, and work-life balance, as well as explore ways to make email work better for your team.
So, join us as we dive into email habits and solutions.
Can checking emails be a global distraction factor?
In our hyper-connected world, emails have transformed into a constant communication stream, making staying in touch with colleagues, clients, and friends easier. However, this deluge of digital messages has an often overlooked downside: causing distraction in the workplace.
Let’s begin by highlighting a few statistics that underline the ubiquity of email in our lives:
- In 2022, the number of global email users reached a staggering 4.26 billion and is expected to grow to a staggering 4.73 billion by 2026.
- Each day in 2022, an estimated 333 billion emails were sent and received worldwide, and this figure is projected to swell to 392.5 billion daily emails by 2026.
- Surprisingly, only 14.3% of all emails are missing or caught by popular spam filters.
- Even more intriguing is that most email views happen on mobile devices, with 41% of email opens occurring on smartphones and tablets.
Now, you might be wondering, why should these numbers concern you as an employer or manager. The answer lies in how these checking email statistics intersect with workplace productivity.
When emails flood inboxes at such an astonishing rate, they often become a constant source of interruption, causing productivity reduction. Employees are interrupted by notifications of a newly arrived email and the subconscious desire to stay on top of their inboxes.
The distractions caused by email notifications can lead to a phenomenon known as “context switching”. This is when employees repeatedly shift their attention between tasks to check emails, which hampers productivity and increases the likelihood of errors. Think of it as like trying to read a book with someone constantly tapping you on the shoulder.
Pro tip: To overcome “context switching,” you can leverage modern technologies like AI to streamline your managerial duties. We offer a comprehensive ChatGPT prompts library for you to explore.
So, while email is a valuable communication tool, its sheer volume and constant presence can become a distraction that hampers Sarah’s and your team’s ability to stay focused and perform at their best.
What are the results of the overload of checking emails?
So, Sarah, our diligent project manager.
She’s just settled into her morning tasks when she hears that familiar ping of her email notification. Curiosity gets the best of her, and she opens her inbox. A couple of minutes turn into twenty as she navigates through a sea of emails, most of which are notifications, newsletters, or non-urgent messages.
As our story illustrates, Sarah’s not alone in her email check habits. She’s part of a trend that’s becoming increasingly common in the modern workplace.
Moreover, Business Insider’s statistics reveal that 34% of Americans check emails throughout the day, frequently interrupting their work. Globally, 99% of email users check email letters daily, with some individuals checking up to twenty times daily. A staggering 58% of consumers admit to checking their email as the very first task of their workday.
As a result of this constant email attention, many inboxes are filled with a backlog of unread emails. Approximately 40% of consumers confess to having at least 50 unread messages lurking in their inbox. The sheer volume of email traffic can constantly distract employees as they juggle their work tasks with email management.
Pro tip: Perhaps all these emails are the result of micromanagement. We have an article on how to avoid micromanaging your teammates.
But it’s not just the frequency of email checks that’s concerning. Studies consistently show that people spend around 23% of their work time on email, with some estimates suggesting that individuals check their email about 36 times per hour. Others have found that users check their email around 11 times per hour, keeping their email application open in the background (84%) and often relying on notifications to access their messages (64%).
This level of “checking email” interaction isn’t without consequences. The average knowledge worker tends to “check in” with communication tools every 6 minutes, with 35.5% checking their email and instant messaging every three minutes or less. This constant interruption disrupts workflow and diminishes productivity.
Interestingly, 18.6% of individuals can resist the pull of communication for more than 20 minutes, and McKinsey Global Institute’s research reveals that 28% of an employee’s workweek is spent reading, composing, or responding to emails. Astonishingly, only about 30% of the received emails require immediate action (and 32% remain unread).
Pro tip: The current issue with time planning is its management. We want to assist and have created an article about trendy time management approaches.
And let’s not forget about response expectations within email check processes. While only 11% of customers/clients and 8% of coworkers expect a response in less than an hour, about 40% anticipate a reply within roughly an hour. These differing expectations can lead to additional pressure on email responsiveness.
The impact is clear — email overload and distraction lead to several negative outcomes, as found in studies and surveys:
- Extra work hours: 57% of respondents reported working extra hours to complete projects.
- Missed deadlines: About 46% struggled to complete projects and activities on time and within deadline.
- Increased work duration: 33% of respondents took more time to complete their work.
- Multitasking: Research validates that the absence of email would lead to a reduction in multitasking.
- Stress: The study found that when email was removed, stress levels, as measured by HRV, dropped.
Pro tip: To identify your teammates’ areas for improvement, consider utilizing a range of project management reports from our article.
Despite this, a large portion of emails, around 62%, are deemed unimportant and could be processed in bulk. Yet, employees spend a significant portion of their time filing emails they want to keep, averaging around 10% of their total email time.
Moreover, it’s not just the immediate distraction that takes a toll. After an interruption, individuals take an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track with their tasks.
It’s high time we explore strategies to tackle this issue and bring balance back to the workplace. How we do that is something we’ll dive into in the following sections.
How to reduce the negative impact of constant email checks?
The statistics and stories we’ve explored so far highlight the undeniable presence of email in our work lives and the potential negative consequences of constant email checks. The good news is that there are practical steps you can take to mitigate these impacts and foster a more productive, less stressful work environment. Here are some strategies to consider:
- Establish clear communication guidelines: Set expectations and OKRs for email response times within your organization. Be realistic about what constitutes an urgent email and what can wait. Encourage team members to use subject lines effectively, clearly indicating the email’s content and urgency.
- Use email filters and folders: Implement email filters and automated rules to categorize and prioritize incoming messages. Create folders or labels for different types of emails to keep your inbox organized and make finding important messages easier.
- Schedule dedicated email time: Rather than constantly checking your inbox, allocate specific time blocks in your day to process emails. This reduces the need for constant interruptions. Turning off email notifications during focused work periods will also minimize distractions.
Pro tip: Establishing dedicated time for email or meetings can be challenging when managing a global remote team. We have an article about remote team management to ease the process with some free tools for project managers to consider.
- Utilize collaboration tools: Explore collaboration platforms and project management tools that can reduce the reliance on email for internal communication. These tools can help streamline discussions, file sharing, and task management.
- Educate employees: Provide training and workshops on effective email management to help employees develop better email habits. Teach them how to prioritize, archive, and declutter their inboxes.
Pro tip: Remember to invest in your own growth as well. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of project management certifications for you to explore.
- Promote mindful email practices: Encourage employees to think twice before hitting “reply all.” Consider whether everyone on the recipient list truly needs the information. Discourage excessive use of CC and BCC to avoid unnecessarily interrupting colleagues.
- Limit email use for personal tasks: Encourage employees to keep personal emails separate from work emails, reducing the temptation to check personal messages during working hours.
- Implement email-free hours or days: Designate specific hours or even whole days where internal emails are discouraged. This can provide employees with uninterrupted time for deep work.
- Regularly review and unsubscribe: Periodically review your email subscriptions and unsubscribe from newsletters or notifications that no longer serve a purpose.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive solution to increase overall productivity and manage your projects effectively, consider trying PPM Express. Our AI-powered project management features are designed to streamline your workflows, track progress, and maximize your team’s productivity.
Take the first step towards enhancing your organization’s efficiency by exploring PPM Express today (and try not to think constantly about how to “check my email inbox”!)