How much do you waste on email?

Jul 08 2016 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

How much time does the average employee spend on email each day? Youd think thats a simple question, demanding a simple answer. But its not.

When I went to the magic Google Machine, and asked that question, the top five answers not only differed, but answered an entirely different question: how much time is wasted on email each day?

Now, this implies two problems. The first is that nobody really knows the answer to how much time we spend on email because it varies from person to person and day to day (but - spoiler alert - its a lot).

The second is that there is an implication that email, by definition, wastes time. Call me sentimental, but I dont think ALL email wastes time, but boy Ill grant you it can feel like it.

In terms of how much we spend, the estimates range from six hours a day (admittedly Huffington Post includes personal email in this number, and doesnt restrict it to work hours) to somewhere between a third (The Atlantic magazine) and a half (pretty much everyone else) reading and responding to email.

Thats a lot of time, money and brain cells expended. Heres some simple math.

Lets assume youre making a salary of $50,000 per year. (That seems high as a base, but lets face it a lot of the real work like cooking your burgers and changing bandages is done by people who are too busy to deal with email as part of their jobs - this is largely a white collar problem). It also makes for easy multiplication because thats $25 per hour. If we figure an eight hour work day (stop laughing) and a third of that is spent on email, thats 2.64 hours a day. Thats $66 per work day, or $1,320 a month. That by the way is purely hourly cost, it doesnt include lost productivity, rework or mental health costs.

Now lets think about how much of that time and money is truly wasted. It seems endless; spam, keeping you in the loop emails (despite your desire to escape the loop), emails thanking you for your answer to their last email, it just keeps coming and sucking up your life. So depending on the day, your work and your mood, somewhere from another third to a half is, well, lets call it unproductive, rather than wasted. Thats a lot of time and money.

How do we stop email from slowly draining our will to live?

  • Take the 30 seconds to unsubscribe to newsletters, ads and other things that you no longer want. If it does nothing more than shrink the volume of email, youll still feel awfully proud of yourself
  • Check email only a few times a day. Youd be surprised how much urgent correspondence really isnt. and you can often combine several emails in one if you take the time. At least finish what youre working on before diving into your inbox.
  • Send Instant Messages or pick up the phone! Email is not a synchronous tool, nor is it very good for immediate problem-solving involving multiple people. Use it properly.
  • You know all this. Quit whining and do it.

Email has its uses. But it can, like so much in life, be used for good or evil. Thats a choice we all make.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel has been writing about how to communicate effectively in remote and virtual environments for more than 20 years. In 2016, he merged with The Kevin Eikenberry Group, to create The Remote Leadership Institute, and now serves as Master Trainer and Coach to the Kevin Eikenberry Group. Wayne is also is the author of more than 15 books, including The Long-Distance Teammate and The Long-Distance Team.