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10 May 2011 | PR 11/52

Inefficient email is costing companies

Email could be costing companies more than £10,000 per employee per year according to research from Loughborough University’s Dr Tom Jackson.

In a paper published in the International Journal of Internet and Enterprise Management, Dr Jackson argues that a strategy of ‘email training’ for staff and improved email management could improve staff efficiency and minimise time wasted on irrelevant and unnecessary emails.
During a two-year study Dr Jackson observed employees at four UK businesses with staff numbers ranging from 23 to 20,000. He distributed questionnaires to identify organisational email use and email problem areas before delivering seminar- and computer-based training to groups of employees at two of the organisations.

An email training tool, developed by Dr Jackson at Loughborough, was also utilised to flag up possible defects in emails prior to sending.

Results showed estimated costs of email per employee ranging from £5,197 to £10,621 per year dependent on the average number of emails received per day and number of email end-users, and based on an average salary of £24,603 (National Statistics Online, 2007). The figure also takes into account an assumed overhead of £23,244 per employee per year.   

Email inefficiencies result from the written quality of email messages, the quantity of email received and the ineffective configuration of an organisation’s email applications.

Through training, staff can identify when email is the most appropriate communications channel, learn how to write effective subject headers and concise messages, and decide who really needs to be copied into each email.

"Our findings may help organisations to become more effective in managing their email communication systems," said Dr Jackson, a senior lecturer in the University’s Department of Information Science.

“By reducing the volume of irrelevant and untargeted email and by reducing the frequency with which an email application checks for new email, the cost of email use can be optimised.

"It is recommended that communication managers or others responsible for email policy and management examine their email policies and develop a 'snapshot' of how their employees use email. 

“Such information will provide an organisation with a useful foundation from which to build their training to increase the effectiveness of their employees."


For all media enquiries contact:

Amanda Overend
Senior PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228697
E: A.J.Overend@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

1)   Findings are from the paper Optimising email communication: the impact of seminar- and computer-based training written by Dr Tom Jackson (Loughborough University) and Prof. Sharman Lichtenstein (Deakin University)published in the International Journal of Internet and Enterprise Management, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2011.

Key figures

  • If email applications are set to check for new email every five minutes (the default for MS Outlook), the possible number of interrupts received in an eight hour day is 96.
  • Research at one organisation found:

    • It took employees an average 76 seconds to read and understand each email message 
    • 16% of received emails were cc’d unnecessarily
    • 13% of received emails were irrelevant or untargeted
    • Only 41% of received emails were for information purposes (emails contained information but required no direct action by recipient)
    • Only 46% of received actionable emails stated the expected action
    • 56% of employees believed email is used too often instead of telephone or face-to-face
    • 45% of employees believed their own emails are easy to read

2)   Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2010 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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This page was last updated on Wednesday September 21, 2011 10:46