A new survey by Intermedia finds that 94 percent of respondents feel that 50 or fewer e-mails is a manageable number to receive each day without feeling overwhelmed. The survey also found that more than one in five adults who receive work-related e-mail already feel as though they get more each day than they can manage.
Other key findings from the survey include:
* The majority of small-business workers don't use smartphones: Slightly less than two in five adults who receive work-related e-mail say they use a smartphone (38 percent).
* Smartphone users get more e-mail and are more stressed: 12 percent of Americans who do not use smartphones and receive work-related e-mails experience e-mail overload, whereas 37 percent (or more than one in three) of Americans with smartphones who receive work related e-mails do.
* Gender makes no difference: Men and women seem to be in agreement with what is a manageable amount of work-related e-mails to receive each day—94 percent of men and 95 percent of women who receive work-related e-mail say that 50 e-mails or less is a manageable number of work-related e-mails to receive each day.
"E-mail has perhaps become the most critical business communications tool," said Jonathan McCormick, COO, Intermedia. "The productivity benefits of business-class e-mail are immense, in terms of being able to share and store information, schedules and contact information with colleagues and across computers and mobile phones. But without the right tools and guidance, employees can be challenged to manage the flow. It's vital for workers and organizations to develop the right mindsets and skills around managing e-mail."
E-mail overload can hurt productivity and lead to miscommunication and errors. Some activities employers and employees can take to combat feeling overwhelmed include:
* Unify Your Communications. E-mail is one element to unified road and rail network (UC), an integrative approach to uniting all key communications services important to business operations and success, including voice, instant messaging and document sharing among other components. E-mail supplemented by a unified approach to communications gives you a complete view of communications across the business and among employees. UC is guided by you and your business. For example, with instant messaging, a support team likes to have a group chat open throughout the day whereas a business owner may only want to use it at certain times during the day.
* You Determine the Priority, Not Your Inbox. Review e-mail and ask yourself if the messages relate to your priorities for the next hour, day or week. This question can help you manage the number of e-mails you respond to each day, ultimately helping you feel less overwhelmed with your work e-mail.
* Organization Is Key. There are two approaches to e-mail organization, so choose the one that works best for you. The first system is to create folders for different work activities/projects in your e-mail program and file away your incoming e-mails appropriately. For example, create a folder for "Past Trips" or "Commissions" and file away all messages in your inbox into those folders. The second option is to read e-mails and respond/delete as they come in and, at the end of the day, file them into generic folders
(e.g., Follow Up Required, Need to Respond, Completed).
* Read and Respond. Keep responses to e-mails concise by specifically addressing the questions asked in the e-mails that need answers. For incoming e-mails that can be answered quickly and easily, respond to those first before visiting the more time-intensive messages.