How Email Is Impacting Work-Life Balance

by CXOtoday News Desk    Jul 06, 2015


There was a time - not so long ago - when office workers answered phone calls and used snail mail not beyond their office hours. In other words, for most employees, when out of office, it was end of the work day. Today, in the age of email, thanks to concepts like BYOD and ‘always on’ work, employees are almost always checking their email - which is encroaching their personal lives. A new study by GFI Software found work-related email is disrupting everything from holidays to funerals as employees struggle to cope with volume and culture of ‘always-on’ working. 

Building on GFI’s inaugural 2013 study, this year’s research into how employees interact with email expanded its focus to look at the impact of mobility and BYOD on email consumption.

This group, the study noticed is a generation of ‘emailaholics’, with over half of them (58 percent) checking work email at least once a day in their personal time, up six percent, while 39 percent admit checking multiple times a day or in real-time through pre-work mornings, evenings, weekends and days off. Further more, 39 percent regularly check their work email after 11pm.

The GFI survey studies the employees email interaction behavior as well as the hindrances faced in the effective work email use. It says 37 percent of the people surveyed see spam as the biggest hindrance in the effective use of email while 27 percent sighted vast number of people as a major obstacle, which creates high-volume of email traffic.

Key findings from the survey include:

Monitoring of work email outside of work hours is inescapable, with 74 percent of those surveyed regularly checking their work email at weekends

A further 54 percent admit to checking work email while on vacation

One quarter (25 percent) feel compelled to reply to work emails within 15 minutes of receipt of an email

In total, 67 percent of respondents reply to work emails in under one hour, while over six percent take more than a week to reply. The survey found that 25 percent of workers surveyed use their work email account for personal activities.

Over 36 percent of work email users surveyed do nothing to organize their email, including archiving, leaving all incoming mail in their Inbox About 13 percent have had an argument at home due to them checking work email during family time.

While most of those replying to email are motivated to do so quickly, those receiving email do not expect such a fast response. Only 11 percent of those surveyed expect a reply inside 15 minutes, while only 53 percent expect a reply in one hour or less, far lower than those actually responding in that time.

“Setting and maintaining realistic boundaries between work and personal life is important to health, happiness and productivity. This balance is becoming harder than ever to accomplish due to the growth of tablets, smartphones, and now smart watches and in-car communications – all of which keep people wired into work even after they go home of an evening,” said Sergio Galindo, general manager of GFI Software.

“Companies can and should do more to address this and help staff achieve a sustainable work-life balance. Companies need to put tougher measures in place to tackle spam and malware, and to make archiving easier for people. They also need to set clear policies on acceptable use of work email, as well as regarding when to switch off – employees need to know it is OK to let work email that arrived after hours wait until the morning and that it is important to prioritise family time and relaxation,” Galindo added. 

 The survey revealed a substantial level of work leaking into personal and family occasions. For example, nearly eight percent have gone through work email while attending an event at their child’s school, more than six percent have checked email during a wedding, four percent have actively checked email while either they or their partner was in labor and three percent have checked email during a funeral.

Vinod Kumar, Managing Director at Satcom Infotech, the company which distributes GFI Software’s products in India believes that striking perfect balance between personal and professional life is of utmost importance as it impacts the physical wellbeing, emotional stability and work efficiency of employees. “As we see an increased perforation of devices into our daily lives, maintaining a balance will continue to be an uphill task,” he stated.