Email Overwhelms Communications Professionals

Well over four-fifths (85 percent) of communications professionals who took part in a recent survey say that email overload is having a negative impact on their productivity at least some of the time. The result was even more pronounced among users of personal digital assistants, with 93 percent saying that they spent a considerable portion of their time managing the information that they receive via email. "Email is kind of seductive, you get pulled into it," says Julie Freeman, president of the International Association of Business Communicators, a group of more than 14,000 public relations, investors relations, marketing and other communications professionals, 1,700 of whom were surveyed by Tudor Williams and Ryan Williams, fellow presidents of twisurveys, an organizational research and strategy development company specializing in employee, association member, and customer research. "You know that it's out there, so you tend to look at it. So people have a little bit of themselves to blame. It's a matter of making a decision when to respond." Those with PDAs tend to be even guiltier because they always have the devices with them, Freeman adds. It's a two way problem, according to the survey. While 62 percent of respondents say they receive too much email (75 percent for PDA users), 44 percent said they send too much email themselves (56 percent for PDA users). IABC recognized it could be among those sending out too many emails a few years ago and therefore started limiting itself to two email communications a month, Freeman adds. The IABC survey also explored the sources of email overload. The biggest cause of information overload was found to be external news sources and professional subscriptions (61 percent), followed by coworkers (39 percent), professional networks (34 percent), team/department sources (29 percent) and company wide corporate sources such as senior management and HR (23 percent). When asked about the number of times they checked their email daily, 81 percent of respondents said their email was always open. Replying to messages was found to be another large time sink: 40 percent of respondents spent two hours daily responding to email, and 35 percent of respondents spent three hours or more daily. To better handle time and the email glut, Freeman recommends that people set time aside to handle emails and spend other times of the day when emails won't be answered. Freeman blames excessive email sending to "a little bit of blindness" on the part of communications professionals. "Sometimes it's a little bit of carelessness," Freeman says. "People send out emails to everyone on their distribution list. Not everyone is interested in a particular message or a particular article." Related articles: Telecommuting and the War for Talent
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