Workers spend nearly 9 hours a week drafting emails – but nearly half go unread

The average employee spends eight hours and 42 minutes a week drafting emails – of which only 42 percent are likely to be fully read, according to research. A survey of 4,000 UK small business employees found they draft an average of 99 emails a week, spending just over five minutes on each.

But they estimate their emails are fully read and understood by their recipients less than half the time (42 percent).

It also emerged four in ten won’t bother reading an email longer than eight sentences, which is deemed “too long”.

And those polled delete or don’t read an email, based solely on the subject line, an average of six times per day – leaving 31 percent missing something important.

The study, commissioned by Slack, also revealed 27 percent of UK small business employees feel email is an “outdated” form of communication.

Some of their frustration comes because it’s easy to misconstrue tone (55 percent), or because they lose emails to the “Spam” or “Junk” folders (48 percent).

Others said their inbox is easily clogged by emails that aren’t relevant to them (44 percent), and there’s an expectation of staying “formal” (35 percent).

This particular point is more of a struggle for younger generations, with 45 percent of Gen Z, and 38 percent of millennials feeling this way – compared to only 28 percent of Gen X, and 22 percent of Baby Boomers.

Meanwhile, younger respondents were also more likely to say emails are not worth it (30 percent of Gen Z, and 24 percent of millennials) compared to older generations (17 percent of Gen X, and 12 percent of baby boomers).

Email is the cockroach of the internet – it simply won’t die

Deirdre Byrne, head of Slack UK and Ireland

Deirdre Byrne, head of Slack UK and Ireland, said: “Email is the cockroach of the internet – it simply won’t die.

“Yet when it comes to business communication, the research reveals this 50-year-old tech isn’t fit for purpose.

“Employees at small businesses are losing a working day each week to drafting emails – which often go unread – at the expense of productive work.

“It’s up to leaders to embrace technology that helps streamline communication and knowledge sharing, accelerates work with AI and automation, and which keeps everyone engaged and focused on more meaningful and impactful work.

“Email may never fully go away, but if we can get beyond the tyranny of the inbox, we can make a massive difference to work today.”

The study also found others not fully digesting an email has left 68 percent feeling that their questions haven’t been answered, and 46 percent with a query they have already responded to.

And almost half (46 percent) have even been addressed by the wrong name at the start of an email.

Nearly six in ten (57 percent) feel their company relies on email because it’s the way things have always been done, along with being inexpensive (57 percent), and because everyone else seems to use it (47 percent).

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But 40 percent feel bogged down at work because of menial tasks like sending emails – with Gen Z most likely to feel this way (52 percent).

Filtering irrelevant emails (49 percent), responding to emails (35 percent), and finding internal information they need for their role (23 percent), also make it harder to succeed in their role.

As a result, 22 percent feel their productivity would be positively impacted if their company relied less on email.

The research, carried out via OnePoll, found 29 percent believe AI tools will increase their productivity – with just 10 percent believing it would have a negative effect.

Replacing manual and repetitive tasks was seen as the top appeal for AI (51 percent), followed by receiving immediate answers (41 percent), and freeing up focus time for other tasks (41 percent).

Ali Rayl, SVP Product Management at Slack, added: “The structure of work today is profoundly different from what jobs looked like in the past.

“We now have productivity platforms and job-specific tools at our fingertips, to help us make the most of our time and talents.

“When we integrate our workplace – the way we communicate, and the tools we use to get work done, which increasingly includes AI – we foster deeper connection, quicker communication, greater clarity through shared context, and overall, we waste less time.

“Information can’t fall through the cracks when there’s one single place where everyone in a company can go to find information.”

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