Email Productivity
How to be more efficient in written communications

Costs of reading e-mails in companies
(From E-mail at the workplace )

In order to establish parameters to measure the productivity related to e-mail, it is essential to establish the costs associated to the medium, but this isn't a simple task considering that each company has its own investments depending on its specific characteristics.

Professors Jackson, Burguess and Edwards, at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, used a method to determine the cost of reading e-mails, which was applied in a British company with 2,850 users of the tool.

Their purpose was to measure the financial benefits that could be obtained by creating an in-company training program on the use of e-mail, and their method is a reference that can be used in any other company.

Using a detailed questionnaire, they established that the company's employees received an average of 23 work related e-mails per day and it took them an average of 76 seconds to read each message. In other words, every employee spent on average 29 minutes a day reading e-mails, which means that this company didn't have intensive users of this medium.

In 2001, Jackson and other professors established that reading an electronic mail also implied an average time to recover after reading them, i.e. if we are working and the automatic e-mail notifier interrupts us, after reading the mail we need some time to go back to what we were doing. Or if the mail implies looking for information or contacting another person, it produces a similar effect.

In their interesting work entitled "The cost of email interruption", Jackson, et. al, found that the average time to recover from the interruption was 64 seconds.

Using this data, they developed the following equation to calculate the cost of reading e-mails every day:

ERD x (T1 + T2) x DS x NE


ERD is the number of E-mails Received Daily, not including spam or messages that aren't work related.

T1 is the average time to read each message, which in this case was 76 seconds.

T2 is the average time to recover from the interruption, which was 64 seconds.

DS is the average daily salary of the company's employees, expressed in minutes.

NE is the number of employees users of e-mail in the company.

Using this equation in the company studied by Jackson, Burguess and Edwards, with 2,850 e-mail users, they established that the cost per year of reading e-mails was 9.8 million pounds, or 19,4 million US$ (at the exchange rate of 1 pound = US$ 1.9815).

This cost only has to do with the time to read e-mails, and does not include other equally important costs, like the time to write them, or the basic hardware and software, security, maintenance, and technical support needed.

If we think that the average cost in time to read e-mail could reach 6,800 US$ per employee, there's no doubt that e-mail has a high financial impact on any company. This means that the significance of e-mail at the workplace goes beyond the traditional technological and linguistic view that we have of this medium.

Of course, in this case we are talking of the costs in a British company, where salaries have nothing to do with the salaries in Latin America or other third world countries, but as a reference, it has an immediate practical value to evaluate your company.

For example, in this British company every employee spends an average of 29 minutes per day to read work related e-mails, but this time can be substantially greater in companies that provide mass services, which have an intensive use of the technology, like companies in software, telecommunications, finances, banks, insurance, utilities, etc.

Crucial learning experience of this case

As I have said, one of the objectives of the previous study was to determine the savings a company could achieve after creating an in-company training and sensitization program on the corporate use of e-mail, and the results were significant.

After employees took a learning program on the best practices to use e-mail, the company in this case saved 8% in the cost of time to read electronic mails, or almost a million and a half dollars per year.

An opportunity to obtain significant savings in the cost of e-mail comes by reducing the dead time that is spent to read them. In the above mentioned case, 29% of e-mails received were of no value to the recipients, either because they were unnecessarily copied or because their content wasn?8?8?8t pertinent. This time is equivalent to a potential savings of 5.6 million dollars per year.

Let us also remember that employees said that only 45% of the e-mails received were easy to read, and 56% of them think that e-mail was used in situations where a telephone or face-to-face conversation would have been more productive. So if these aspects are improved, the savings can also increase considerably.

See an example of how to estimate costs of reading e-mails.

(Fragment from E-mail at the workplace by Juan Carlos Jimenez. See it at Google Books).

Are we aware of how we use e-mail at workplace?


Cost of reading e-mails in companies

See my Blog about
the email at the workplace - Juan Carlos Jimenez

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