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Study Shows Increasing Reliance on Business E-Mail

We used to call them information workers. New research from Mimecast suggests that a more apt name would be inbox workers -- users “who spend the majority of their time on e-mail and shun social media at work.”

The survey asked 2,500 information workers in the U.S., U.K., and South Africa about their “average” employee’s attitudes about (and frustration with) e-mail. According to Mimecast, an information worker will use e-mail for four hours per day on average. That doesn’t mean they’re happy with e-mail -- only a quarter of them report high levels of satisfaction with their e-mail functionality.” One third say they “expect e-mail and social media to converge in the next five years.”

Increasingly, e-mail isn’t just for communication -- it’s being used a file store, search engine, and a collaboration platform. Apparently, I’m not alone -- 86 percent of e-mail users claim to rely on e-mail “as a search tool to find documents or information from within their inbox or archive.” Of course, that’s not what e-mail systems are designed to do (which explains why Copernic Desktop Search is running on my desktop), and why users report that searches take an average of two minutes to return results.

In spite of its lack of speed, 49 percent of users say e-mail is “reducing the need for other file storage systems.”

I’m often told that enterprises are using social media for internal and external communications. In fact, in a previous Mimecast survey, one-third of IT “decision makers” thought that “the use of social collaboration tools had reduced employees’ reliance on corporate e-mail.” When you ask actual e-mail users, you get a different picture. This survey pointed out that “Inbox Workers use social media, but it is primarily for personal use. The rise of social media has had little impact on their reliance upon work e-mail.” E-mail is still preferred for exchanging documentation, setting up meetings, and requesting information by 88 percent of respondents.

This dependency on e-mail may be leading to bad corporate habits. Mimecast says their survey showed that “39 percent of information workers regularly send and receive workplace e-mail outside of working hours, 25 percent of e-mail users admit that they have sent e-mails late in the evening purely to ‘show commitment’.” That’s just the tip of the behavior iceberg: three-quarters of those surveyed admit to having sent e-mails they have later regretted (just three quarters?). Your storage administrator probably won’t be surprised with another finding: 40 percent deleted e-mails they shouldn’t have (and presumably wanted them back).

We’re inundated with e-mail, but we seem to want even more. Almost half (45 percent) say it’s “useful to be copied on e-mails internally, with 35 percent saying that they find Cc e-mail a really useful way of staying on top of external communications.” Only a fifth think people overuse the “carbon copy” feature at their enterprise. That explains, I think, why only 14 percent of all e-mail received is considered “business critical.”

Here’s the part I really envy: “on average, e-mail users receive 32 e-mails a day, containing 4.5 megabytes of data in total.” Just 32? If only I were so lucky.

Mimecast supplies cloud-based e-mail archiving, continuity, and security solutions for Microsoft Exchange, Hosted Exchange, and Office 365. You can read more from their report here (registration is required for access).

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted on 11/14/2012

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