50% Of Your Salary To Write Emails: Are You Worth It?

Matt Hayden / Peachy Keen Color
Photo by Ally Aubry via Flickr

Private-sector survey research published in 2011 by Inc. Magazine found that employees of small to medium-size businesses spend about 50% of their time on email. (Here's the press release.)

(It's not actually fully 50% if you read the survey results carefully - because there is an element of phone messaging involved - but let's just take that as a ballpark figure for discussion.)

I would also take as a ballpark figure the findings of the research sponsor, which (unsurprisingly) has a "unified communications" product to sell that supposedly eliminates the inefficiency caused by relying so much on email. So they make big claims like:
"Efficiencies created by Unified Communications on a typical firm with 50 Knowledge Workers (sic) with salaries ranging from $40,000 to $110,000....(are) valued at approximately $950,000 annually."
Yet despite the inevitable bias and hype, their findings resonate with my own experience. Email is a costly waste of time when you have the option of working in a collaboration environment.

In particular I find this to be true of Google's collaboration tools - Docs and Sites. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but compared with the frustration of trying to do things in an Outlook environment the learning curve is well worth it.

(As always, this is personal opinion - not endorsed or sponsored.)

What the heck are people doing on email (and phone) all day? According to Fonality's survey:
  • 36% - trying to contact people, find information, or schedule a meeting.
  • 14% - "duplicating information" - forwarding emails, etc. - or managing unwanted communication (spam e-mails and phone calls)
Think about it:
Are you worth half your salary in email?

What will you do when your boss catches on that all the email is largely a waste of time?

Although it is a difficult thing to do when seemingly "everybody" uses email, my suggestion would be to get ahead of the curve and transition to collaboration-based work now. The result:
  • In the short-term, you will hate it because you have to evangelize a lot.
  • In the medium-term you will find yourself happier because you save yourself time and aggravation associated with mindlessly forwarding, detaching, and reattaching email - not to mention the inaccuracies associated with "who had the latest version of that?" 
  • In the longer-term, spending a larger proportion of your time on actual knowledge work is a much better way to demonstrate value to your organization than email-pushing.
Good luck!

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