Are emails the ultimate time waster?

by Nicola Middlemiss19 Jan 2015
A new study has revealed that the average office employee receives a staggering 1,738 inane emails every year – many of which would be better expressed in person.

Trivial topics like 'organising a whip around', 'please sponsor me' and 'happy birthday' topped the list of most irritating messages with subject headings such as 'the printer has broken' and 'can we turn the air con down?' often completely ignored.

The study found that, in a typical working week, the average employee will receive 36 emails deemed “futile”.

A third of the 2,000 office workers polled admitted there was someone in their team who is known for sending pointless emails and 50% said they have colleagues that frequently copy in “everyone and anyone.”

 Not surprisingly, 53% of those polled said they wish everyone picked the phone up and spoke more to one another but, somewhat alarmingly, a full ten% of respondents said they felt ‘scared’ to do so.

 The study also revealed the following:
  • 25% are usually emailing because they are talking about someone behind their back
  • 24% said they like to appear as if they are working, when in reality they are just typing emails to their pals.
  • 67% said they sent more emails than they make phone calls
  • 70% said emailing is just easier
  • 20% said they felt less  confident on the phone
 The poll also compiled a list of the most pointless emails workers had ever received. Among them;
  • Please sponsor me
  • Happy birthday
  • Introducing new starters
  • The printer has broken down
  • There is going to be a fire alarm
  • Secret Santa
  • Congratulatory emails about 'a job well done'
  • Can everyone chip in for a whip around please
  • Someone's car has left their lights on
  • Debates over the temperature of the air-con
  • Sweepstake for the lottery
  • Sweepstake for the Grand National
  • The toilet is blocked
  • Food has gone missing from the fridge
  • The fridge needs cleaning
  • Whose photocopying is left on the photocopier
  • Ran out of milk
  • Has anyone seen my building pass?
  • Someone is blocking me in in the car park
  • Someone has stolen my stapler/calculator/etc.
  • Whose turn is it to make tea?
  • There aren't any tea bags/coffee left
  • Someone has stolen my mug
  • Someone has used their favourite mug
  • The bins need emptying
  • Dishwasher needs empting
  • There isn't any toilet roll left
  • Anyone got the keys to the pool car?


  • by Amanda 19/01/2015 1:49:09 PM

    The email vs phone comparison is an interesting one - I tend to use email in place of a phone call for things that are less urgent; I expect people to respond in their own time rather than demanding an answer right on the spot. I find more often than not a phone call results in a follow up email anyway so you're sometimes doubling up.

  • by Steve 19/01/2015 3:35:34 PM

    Whilst I agree with the vast majority of the pointless emails listed, as an HR professional I'm sad to see "Introducing new starters" and "Congratulatory emails about 'a job well done'" included there. These are subjects for which email is ideal as a broadcast communication tool. Regarding the rest, I always try to apply the axiom "talk first, email later" in my HR work.

  • by Rex 20/01/2015 11:29:49 AM

    But isn't a group email a far more efficient method of communicating that the toilet is blocked and asking whose photocopying is left at the photocopier? I don't see these as pointless.

    Another factor not mentioned, is that an email is a permanent and written record - often necessary for legal or HR reasons.

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