Email: Workers' Constant Companion

Think you get a lot of E-mail? InformationWeek Research estimates that companies with annual revenue of less than $100 million receive, on average, 82,000 E-mail messages and send out 100,000 in a typical day
Think you get a lot of E-mail? InformationWeek Research estimates that companies with annual revenue of less than $100 million receive, on average, 82,000 E-mail messages and send out 100,000 in a typical day. Quantities increase to an average of 435,000 inbound and 219,000 outbound messages at midsize companies with revenue of $100 million to less than $1 billion. E-mail traffic is even greater among large companies with annual revenue of $1 billon or more: 2.4 million messages received and 1.6 million sent.

Checking InTo help manage the glut of legitimate and unsolicited electronic correspondence, companies have to invest in more than content-filtering and anti-spam products and services. Secure, efficient remote and wireless connectivity is increasingly becoming an E-mail necessity.

A survey conducted by Osterman Research in early February demonstrates how pervasive E-mail has become and the effect it has on workers' lives. Of the 320 business-technology professionals interviewed about their E-mail-management habits, two-thirds report that they faithfully check their business E-mail accounts during the weekend, with 47% of these participants checking Saturday and Sunday and 18% limiting check-ins to once during a weekend. Another 23% of survey respondents say they access work-related E-mail once in a while, not every weekend.

The need to remain connected goes beyond weekends. Even while away on vacation, survey respondents have a strong desire to stay on top of what's happening at work. Nearly two-thirds admit to checking business E-mail while vacationing.

Two areas where companies leave E-mail use primarily to employee discretion: using business E-mail addresses for personal correspondence and accessing personal E-mail accounts on company time.

What's your company doing to make E-mail access easier on workers, regardless of where they are? Let me know at the address below.

Helen D'Antoni
Senior Editor, Research
[email protected]

Constant Monitoring

How often do you check your E-mail for new messages when at work?

It isn't just personal time that employees are devoting to E-mail. A good part of each workday is spent on its management. Sixty-eight percent of survey participants in Osterman Research's study say they check for new messages more or less continually while at work. Seventeen percent check in a few times every hour, while 13% report checking several times a day. Only 2% access E-mail for new messages just once or twice a day.

Few Prohibitions

Does your company have a policy against receiving personal messages at your business E-mail address?

Just as Internet access can divert employee attention away from the tasks at hand, so, too, can E-mail, especially if it's personal correspondence. Yet 72% of survey respondents report that their companies have no policies that prohibit the receipt of personal messages to business E-mail addresses. Twenty-eight percent, however, work for businesses with rules that decree company E-mail accounts are for business correspondence and communications only.

Access Allowed

Does your company have a policy against checking personal E-mail accounts while at work?

Most companies don't prohibit employees from checking personal E-mail accounts, such as Hotmail and Yahoo, during the workday. Only a quarter of the 320 business-technology professionals surveyed by Osterman Research say their companies have policies against it. Three-quarters of respondents report no such guidelines and are able to check personal E-mail accounts without the possibility of any disciplinary consequences.

Even While Away

Do you check work-related E-mail when you're on vacation?

Vacations used to mean time away, a chance to relax and recharge, but remote access has changed that. According to Osterman Research, a majority of workers check their business E-mail while on vacation. Thirty-five percent say they check in at least once during a trip, 21% at least once a day, and 7% more than once a day. Only two in five leave electronic correspondence until they're back in the office.

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