July 18, 2010    /    by

Too Much eMail? New Survey Results Say Yes

  How much email is too much? New survey results from Harris Interactive found that 50 emails a day may be the breaking point for employees. ...


How much email is too much? New survey results from Harris Interactive found that 50 emails a day may be the breaking point for employees. Other key findings include:

·         Small-business users are feeling the brunt. A staggering 94% of small-business employees said 50 emails is their limit.

·         Gender makes no difference. Men and women are equally stressed -- 94% of men and 95% of women cited the number 50.

Despite numerous studies and reports suggesting that too much email is a bad thing, is anything really changing? Not yet.

I've known for a decade that email was a critical app. What's become even clearer to me lately is that Blackberry support for executives is now the must-have (7x24x365) " Super" app. That's right, when the messaging system is down (and yes, this includes iPhones Xs, Droids, or whatever new device is coming next), no one is comfortable in the exec suite.

Nevertheless, this is the new normal. I see no helpful trends in sight. In fact, I think our challenges are increasing with newer, faster (4-G) mobile devices. (My teenage daughter wants me to up her number of IM messages on her cell phone, so the next generation isn't slowing down.)

Some staff are feeling burned out .  Almost two years ago the LA Times proclaimed that our email Inbox has become an In(sane)-box. " It happened with cigarettes. It happened with red meat. And carbs. And SUVs. And now it's happening with e-mail. The preferred communication channel of millions of Americans is no longer cool ."  Some companies even declared email bankruptcy - and started over with new accounts. 

There's no doubt that, as a society, we've come a long way from the days when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan captivated America in the movie You've Got Mail .

In Michigan State Government, we block over 90% of incoming email from the Internet. (We've determined that these messages are either spam or contain viruses.) And yet, I still receive an average of between 100 and 200 emails every business day.    I sometimes wonder how I get anything done when I add in text messages, tweets, social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, phone calls and more.

Last summer, I wrote about work-life balance and some strategies to unplug on vacation, but I must admit that it has been very difficult to disconnect over the past year. (Note to self: there must be a reason why I seem to return to this subject every year right before summer vacation.) Meanwhile, Americans continue to spend more time online at home and work. The number of night and weekend (work-related) contacts (or family interruptions) has certainly grown for me. A few months back, we had an email outage over one weekend in two government agencies which resulted in my weekend being blown up.

So what can we do now regarding messaging? There are plenty of helpful tips for managing email. One of Ross Mayfield's best points in Forbes is to move from a push technology (anyone can send you an email whether you want it or not) to a pull technology where you subscribe or access what you want.

My advice is to take a step back once or twice a year and examine your email and other online habits. Is your email inbox working? Are changes needed? For important contacts and trusted partners who contact you via email, establish a protocol or working pattern that allows you to work on the most important priorities first.

What about your inbox? How many emails do you receive daily? Any strategies to help others?

Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts on email at home and work.