A new survey commissioned by IT solutions specialist GFI Software concludes that, for the vast majority of workers in the small to medium-sized business (SMB) sector at least, the conventional nine-to-five/five day working week is dead; and right there holding the smoking gun is email.
The survey, independently conducted and blind, of 500 employees within the UK SMB workspace, looked at work-related email habits around usage both during the accepted working day and after hours. Although, having looked closely at the results of the survey, the truth of the matter is that the boundaries between work and home have become so blurred as to be almost hypothetical. The fact that 74.6% of people asked admitted that they check their work email at the weekend should come as no surprise at all. I know I do. That said, I'm not amongst the 44% who check work-related email after 11pm although I will admit to checking my inbox while on holiday just like 53.7% of folk do. Outside of 'normal' work hours, 11% check email in real time (whatever that may be) and 27.4% check email 'several times' a day (whatever that may be).
If you want more precisely measured surprises, perhaps even a little bit of shock and awe, then how about these figures:
7.5% have checked work email while attending a child’s school event.
10% have checked work email during a wedding.
6.3% have checked work email while their spouse was giving birth.
Email remains the de-facto method of office communication, with 48.8% of respondents using it compared to just 25% who actually still go to face-to-face meetings and 23.6% using that old-fashioned telephone thing. When it comes to Instant Messaging, only 2.6% opted for that. I'm a little surprised not to see mention of social networks, but then again maybe I am a little unusual in that I use Twitter and more often Facebook for business communication alongside email. Or maybe these fall under the remit of IM for the purposes of this research, who knows? Anyway, the point being that email is pretty much a constant in the workplace and at home for most workers these days. 74.6% will typically respond to an email within the hour during work hours, and 28.8% within 15 minutes. I can't claim to match either metric, as my response time depends entirely on who the sender is and what the email is about. Yes, that's right, I somehow manage to prioritize my communications and therefore responses vary between 'instant' for the most urgent/interesting to 'sometime this month' for the least urgent/most boring stuff, with everything else usually in the 24-36 hours range.
Given what I have just said, I found the regional differences section of the survey report rather interesting. I am an honorary Yorkshireman, South London born and bred but I have lived and worked in Yorkshire for the past 20 years now. I am not, however, typical in any regard (how many plaited beard, eye patch wearing, heavily tattooed technology journalists do you know?) so it was a little odd to see that I am distinctly average in my email usage for the Yorkshire area: 20.6% of Yorkshire users expect a reply within 15 minutes, the most impatient group of users, and I'm even worse as I expect immediate replies and get annoyed when they are not forthcoming despite my own tardiness in doing the same.
You might think, given how email has become an all-pervading thing, that it would be regarded as a negative in our lives. But no, 93% of those asked regard it as a blessing rather than a curse. Perhaps this has more than a little to do with the undeniable fact that email has transformed both the way we work and the way we play for the better. The work/life balance issues that come with that transformation are accepted as a small price to pay, it would seem.
So, do you have any guilty secrets when it comes to places or occasions when you have checked your work email? Spill the beans!