Study: Most Workers Aren’t Overwhelmed By E-mail

By: Anick Jesdanun, AP Internet Writer

(AP) If you’re feeling inundated by e-mail at work and think the annoyance must be universal, you might be wrong.

A new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project finds that overwhelming levels of e-mail are quite atypical, an outcome that surprised even the researchers.

“All of the anecdotal evidence you hear from people out there is, ‘I’m so overwhelmed by the volume of e-mail,'” said Deborah Fallows, a senior research fellow at Pew. “The perception comes from the people who are talking most loudly about it, those few who are most overwhelmed.”

In fact 60% of Americans who use e-mail at work receive 10 or fewer messages on an average day, the study released Sunday found. Only 6% receive more than 50.

And among those power users, only 11% say they feel overwhelmed by all the e-mail. Most have found tricks to keep e-mail manageable, such as using software to automatically sort e-mail into folders.

The results counter a myth that employees are inundated by e-mail as they are copied in on every response and are continually sent notes requesting something urgent, finding hours quickly disappearing just checking e-mail.

Three-quarters of e-mail users at work spend an hour or less each day on e-mail. A quarter spend less than 15 minutes. Only half say e-mail volume has increased over the past year.

The pattern is different for the power users, typically the better educated and higher earners. The study found heavy e-mail use more typical in large corporations as well as among high-level managers, who may be copied in on a range of projects.

Many of them spend two hours or more daily on e-mail — often beyond four. They are also more likely to be checking e-mail after work or on vacation.

But power users are also more likely to credit e-mail for helping them communicate with more people and keeping them current with events. The study notes, for instance, that low-level employees may feel comfortable e-mailing a senior manager with an idea they may not otherwise walk in to discuss.

Meanwhile, the study found that workers under 30 were more likely to use e-mail for personal use. They were also more likely to send gossip, jokes, and chain letters.

Fallows said the difference is attributable to the younger workers’ greater comfort with technology and the lower likelihood they’d be in senior positions.

The telephone-based survey of 2,447 Internet users, including 1,003 who use e-mail at work, was conducted April 9 to May 17. The study has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

On the Net:

http://www.pewinternet.org

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