Emails; the office worker's nemesis. The dread of a full inbox and sifting through spam can be boring, time-consuming and demotivating. With social media and online business platforms becoming more and more advanced, it's perhaps surprising that the good-old email system is still in use in a majority of office workplaces. Today we zoom in on emails in the workplace, and whether your system is as streamlined and efficient as it could be.

A study from 2016 revealed that UK worker's spend an average of 3 months a year managing emails – whether that's reading, organising or replying to. 79% say they check their work emails out of work-hours, including on weekends - of these, 66% manage emails while watching television, 53% sort through their inbox in bed, and 43% check emails on their commute.

The UK was shown to be one of the worst for time-consuming emails, with workers in Germany spending around a month less on them at 62 days a year.

Occupational psychology expert Dr Emma Russell, head of the well-being at work research group at Kingston Business School, conducted a study centred on how workers manage their emails.

A point that stuck out from her resulting advice is that she criticised the popular, recommended method of allocating a certain time slot to checking emails per with a surprisingly logical explanation:

Checking emails at 2pm for example, and then not until the same time the next day may allow you to be productive in other tasks and cut down distractions, but Russell notes how this can prevent workers from prioritising and controlling their workload effectively. Checking emails regularly throughout the day can avoid the negative implications of a potential build-up of tasks in the inbox.

From her study, Dr Russell compiled together 4 general rules which should improve how workers manage emails, as reported by
  • Deal with and clear email whenever you check it. Don’t just read it, but act on it – file it, flag it, delete it. By reducing inbox clutter, people report feeling less overloaded.
  • Switch off email alerts. Interruptions can have a negative impact on our efficiency, but make sure that you are still logging on regularly – once every 45 minutes or so – to stay on top of email and new work priorities.
  • Use the ‘delay send’ function when sending email out of hours, so that recipients only receive their email during normal working hours. This means that while you are taking advantage of the flexibility of email, you aren’t imposing this on the recipient.
  • Review your personal email strategies – are they purposeful and efficient or are they habitual and reactionary? Many people are engaged in automatic, reactive use of email that can prevent more strategic decision making and thought.
Russell comments on her concluding advice:

“It is clear there is no one-size-fits-all set of strategies that will universally improve our productivity and wellbeing at work, but using just some of these tips could significantly improve the way we manage our email, and help us to feel more in control. The pointers are sufficiently grounded in research to provide some useful advice.”

Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our Content Writer.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry with a love of writing about anything and everything in tow.
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