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Agile Computing Authors: John Basso, Elizabeth White, John Esposito, Liz McMillan, Derek Weeks

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Information Workers Becoming ‘Inbox Workers’ as Reliance on Business Email Grows

Information workers’ reliance on email is turning them into ‘Inbox Workers’ who spend the majority of their time on email and shun social media at work, according to new research launched today by Mimecast®, the leading supplier of cloud-based email archiving, continuity and security for Microsoft Exchange, Hosted Exchange and Office 365.

The research – the second in Mimecast’s Shape of Email series – surveyed 2,500 information workers in the U.S., U.K. and South Africa to explore the average employee’s attitudes to, and frustrations with, email. The report found that on average an information worker will use email for four hours per day; equivalent to more than 37 full 24-hour days over a working year, 111 working days, or 888 working hours.

However, users are also frustrated by the limitations of email. Just one in four users report high levels of satisfaction with their email functionality and one in three expect email and social media to converge in the next five years. It is clear that email needs to evolve if it is to cope with the demands of modern day Inbox Workers, who see email not just as a communications tool but as a file store, search engine and collaboration platform.

So, what is an Inbox Worker? And how can you tell if you are one? Here are a few tips:

  • You use your inbox as a default file server and search tool – No longer just a tool for sending and receiving messages, an Inbox Worker’s email account is their default way of storing, filing and searching for documents or information:
    • Eighty-six percent of email users surveyed rely on email as a search tool to find documents or information from within their inbox or archive
    • However, with email systems rarely designed for rapid searching, these searches take two minutes on average, suggesting that a lack of intelligent search capability is contributing to the huge amount of time spent using email every day
    • Despite this, one in two (49 percent) believe that email is reducing the need for other file storage systems
  • Your use of work email has been unaffected by social media – Inbox Workers use social media, but it is primarily for personal use. The rise of social media has had little impact on their reliance upon work email:
    • Shape of Email found that email is preferred over social media for all forms of workplace collaboration, including documentation exchange (preferred by 91 percent of respondents), arranging a meeting (89 percent), requesting information (88 percent) and sharing views and opinions (72 percent)
    • Seventy-eight percent of email users say that social media has not reduced their reliance on email for dealing with customers and 76 percent say that it has not reduced the need for email when communicating with colleagues
    • Seventy-four percent of information workers believe that information shared in an email is taken more seriously than information shared through social media
  • Your love of email can lead to bad habits – With Inbox Workers relying on email for so much of their working day, their dependence can give rise to bad corporate behavior:
    • While 39 percent of information workers regularly send and receive workplace email outside of working hours, 25 percent of email users admit that they have sent emails late in the evening purely to “show commitment”
    • Seventy-five percent say that they have sent emails they have later regretted, with 40 percent having deleted emails they shouldn’t have
    • Even more worrying, 10 percent of those surveyed admitted to having read emails in other people’s inboxes
  • You like to be kept in the loop – Inbox Workers like to be copied on emails, even if they are non-essential messages:
    • Nearly half (45 percent) of email users believe that it is useful to be copied on emails internally with 35 percent saying that they find “CC” email a really useful way of staying on top of external communications. Just one in five (21 percent) believe that “CC” email is overused within their company
    • This might explain why 40 percent of all emails received are considered to be functional, or of low value and just 14 percent of all emails received are considered business critical
    • On average, email users receive 32 emails a day, containing 4.5 megabytes of data in total
  • Also, IT teams overestimate the impact of social media on email usage:
    • One in three IT decision makers thought that the use of social collaboration tools had reduced employees’ reliance on corporate email when surveyed for Mimecast’s first Shape of Email report. However, this is not borne out by the experience of employees
    • While 32 percent of IT teams thought that social tools had reduced the need for email when communicating with colleagues, only 24 percent of information workers agreed
    • And while 30 percent of IT managers thought that social media has impacted the need for email when dealing with customers, just 22 percent of users felt the same

“The research shows that the way the average employee uses email at work has changed,” commented Peter Bauer, CEO and co-founder, Mimecast. “For many people, email is no longer just a messaging system. It has become the primary tool for storing, sharing and searching for information. This is why we are seeing information workers increasingly becoming Inbox Workers; they rely on email for all aspects of their job and spend, on average, 50 percent of their working day using email.”

“What is clear is that, despite the huge number of specialist collaboration and social tools that have come to market in recent years, email remains the first choice for the majority of business users,” Bauer continued. “While email is not perfect, it seems that information workers are reluctant to adopt other, more social, tools if it means they have to leave their inbox behind. Therefore, rather than trying to entice users away from email and on to other platforms, IT teams should look for ways to make their email more efficient by introducing new, inbox-friendly collaboration tools and making the data stored within the archive more accessible.”

For further information on Mimecast’s Shape of Email Report, please visit: www.mimecast.com/shapeofemail

About the research

The research surveyed over 2,500 information workers from the UK, USA and South Africa. The research was conducted by Loudhouse on behalf of Mimecast in Summer 2012.

About Mimecast

Mimecast (www.mimecast.com) delivers cloud-based email management for Microsoft Exchange, including archiving, continuity and security. By unifying disparate and fragmented email environments into one holistic solution that is always available from the cloud, Mimecast minimizes risk and reduces cost and complexity, while providing total end-to-end control of email. Founded in the United Kingdom in 2003, Mimecast serves more than 6,000 customers and 1.5m users worldwide and has offices in Europe, North America, Africa and the Channel Islands.

Mimecast social media resources

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