No escape from company email as work/life divide disappears

Independent research commissioned by GFI Software reveals that the demands of work email are encroaching even more into everything from holidays to starting a family

DURHAM, N.C., July 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- GFI Software™ today announced the findings of its second independent study into email user habits, which revealed a stark increase in the way that work email is encroaching into the personal lives and downtime of staff. Of those surveyed, some 44.8 percent admit to checking work email at least once a day in their personal time, while 40.4 percent admit checking multiple times a day or in real-time through pre-work mornings, evenings, weekends and days off.

Building on the 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. The survey found that 13.6 percent of those surveyed now use a smartphone or tablet as their primary device for sending and receiving email, thus ensuring that staff are wired into work email 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless they turn the device off.

The blind, independent study was conducted for GFI Software by Opinion Matters, surveying 500 US workers from companies with up to 500 employees.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Outside of work hours, 44.8 percent of those surveyed check their work email at least once a day in personal time. A further 9.8 percent continue to check their email in real-time even before and after work.
  • Nearly a third of those surveyed (31.2 percent) respond to work email within 15 minutes or receiving it during work hours. A further 23.4 percent of respondents answer work email within half an hour during office hours
  • When sending email, the same respondents are less fussy about response times, with only 10.6 percent expecting a reply inside 15 minutes and only 18.2 percent expecting one inside half an hour. Most expect a reply within one hour (23 percent) or at least within a day (21.8 percent) of sending a message
  • However, just under a third (31.8 percent) still resist the temptation to look in on their company email outside of the working day

Email eating into social occasions
The survey revealed a substantial encroachment of work email not only into personal time, but also into social events and other milestone non-work occasions. For example:

  • Nearly two thirds (63.6 percent) of those surveyed admit to checking work email while on holiday
  • While attending an event at their child's school, 6.7 percent have gone through work email
  • A further 5 percent have checked email during a wedding ceremony
  • Even during a funeral, 3.8 percent have checked mail
  • ...and a further 3.8 percent owned up to checking their work email while their spouse was in labor

"Email is not just a critical business communications tool, but as the data shows it is relied on – perhaps too much – as a virtual filing cabinet and storage repository," said Sergio Galindo, general manager of the Infrastructure Business Unit at GFI Software. "This kind of approach can all too easily breed an 'out-of-sight, out-of-mind' attitude towards email safety, security and backup, which is dangerous ground for any company to be on given the value of the data tied up in an organization's mailboxes and the disruption that is caused when just one user suffers email disruption, let alone the whole company."

The research data revealed that 55.8 percent use their email mailbox as a storage tool to file and retrieve documents, a potentially dangerous and ineffective way to manage email that creates over-size mailboxes that in turn become prone to data corruption, slow email performance and high server-side storage costs.

"The plus side is that despite the substantial encroachment of email into people's personal lives, people continue to view email positively, with 83 percent of those surveyed considering email to be a blessing rather than a curse, which is a great endorsement of the technology and the way it is has transformed both business and personal communications," Galindo added.

The surge of mobile devices
Ubiquitous availability of cheap smartphones, tablets and mobile connectivity has undoubtedly helped blur the boundaries between work and personal time. However, the survey data showed that just 9.8 percent of respondents were using smartphones as their primary email device, with only 3.8 percent using tablets. With the cost of basic tablets already as low as $40 and pre-paid smartphones below $100, this is a surprising statistic.

The surge in mobile device use has made casual work email use harder to resist, with 30 percent using their mobile device to check email on holiday, while 28.6 percent have risked company email security by connecting their device to public Wi-Fi hotspots while away. Only a fifth (21.4 percent) turn off their smartphone while on holiday, although nearly half (49.4 percent) claim they disable or otherwise disconnect work email from their phone for the duration of their time off.

The research also revealed that conventional desktop PCs continue to be the main device people use for dealing with email (60 percent) while laptops are a surprisingly distant second, used by 24.2 percent of respondents as their primary email device.

Regional Findings

  • Workers on the West Coast are likely to be the fastest to reply to an email, with 37.2 percent of those surveyed doing so inside 15 minutes during work hours. Those in the South West are the most impatient, with 16.7 percent expecting a reply inside the same time period
  • 32.6 percent of staff in the South East check their work email several times a day outside of work hours, closely followed by 31 percent in the North East
  • With 36 percent claiming they don't check email outside of work hours, workers on the West Coast are also the most successful in maintaining the divide between work and personal time
  • 51.4 percent of workers in the South East admit to regularly checking work email after 11pm. 45.5 percent on the West Coast do the same

A copy of the full survey results and an infographic can be found at:

About GFI Software
GFI Software™ develops quality IT solutions for small to mid-sized businesses with generally up to 1,000 users. GFI® offers two main technology solutions: GFI MAX™, which enables managed service providers (MSPs) to deliver superior services to their customers; and GFI Cloud™, which empowers companies with their own internal IT teams to manage and maintain their networks via the cloud. Serving an expanding customer base of more than 200,000 companies, GFI's product line also includes collaboration, network security, anti-spam, patch management, faxing, mail archiving and web monitoring. GFI is a channel-focused company with thousands of partners throughout the world. The company has received numerous awards and industry accolades, and is a longtime Microsoft® Gold ISV Partner.



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