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The Average User Checks Email 5.6 Hours Per Weekday. This Is Not Good.

A Stark Survey

A couple months ago, Adobe released the results of its fourth annual Consumer Email Survey. Drawing from data gathered earlier in the summer from over 1000 panel participants, the survey provides a snapshot of current consumer email habits.

Among other results, it reveals that self-reported time spent checking work email has decreased slightly to 3.1 hours per weekday on average. By contrast, the average time spent checking personal email has increased by almost 20% to 2.5 hours per weekday.

Combined: the average daily time spent checking email is now 5.6 hours — up almost a half hour since 2017.

These numbers are self-reported and therefore should not be taken too literally, and if you look at the histogram provided by Adobe, it’s clear that the variance is significant. The survey still captures, however, the stark reality that the average professional is now dedicating a substantial fraction of their waking hours to sending and receiving digital messages.

An Inescapable Conclusion

No one doubts the reality that it’s more efficient to hit “send” than to print a memo or mail a letter, but as observations like the above become more extreme, the claim that email is a straightforward productivity booster has become increasingly indefensible — the dynamics at play are more complex and decidedly dire.

We cannot, in other words, escape the necessity to radically rethink how we work in the age of computer networks. To use a metaphor appropriate to the October season: survey results like those reported by Adobe are making it unmistakably clear that Frankenstein’s digital monster has escaped the lab.

27 thoughts on “The Average User Checks Email 5.6 Hours Per Weekday. This Is Not Good.”

  1. This is absurd and honestly, almost hard to believe. I can see someone spending 20% of their workweek on social media because it provides entertainment to some people.

    However, 20% of the workweek on email signals bloated bureaucracy and procrastinating workers.

    • Leo, the survey results were 5.6 hours per weekDAY… since there are 5 weekdays in a week, that’s 28 hours of checking email per week. Which is 70% of a 40-hour workweek. crazy!

      • Good to have your perspective, but here’s our side of the story- we don’t work for 40 hours a week, our average is 60 hours per week. That includes roughly 15-odd hours of e-mail management, but it very much forms part of the job!

  2. Ties very much with the spirit of the last post.
    There is a growing mentality where people are pushed more and more to do shallow work. In the case of emails, in some organizations, people are shunned and penalized if they do not answer their mail nearly-immediately.
    The last post did, however, touch an extremely valid point, that is the monetary cost of shallow work. Proper studies need to be carried where this aspect is estimated, explained and alternatives offered in order to radically rethink how we work.
    In my experience as an IT professional, I have seen over the last decade or so an evolution in software development methodologies; from waterfall to extreme to agile and many others in between. The reasons that drove these changes were always promises of gain in terms of time and money.
    This is why I think deep work and its benefits should become more available to the top management C tier, in the form of systematic studies where the saving is measured.

  3. I took a look at the numbers. The categories are broad. If I check my emails 10 minutes per weekday it is counted as one hour for the purpose of calculating the mean. 62% of the participants report checking work emails in 2 hours or less. IMO there is still enough time to do deep work. Fore average calculation, the last category “more than 6 hours” is assigned “9 hours”. So I think these numbers are skewed.

    I don’t get why anyone would check their personal emails for more than two hours a day. The survey doesn’t say they did so during working time.

  4. I agree with Leo here, this seems absurd. I looked around the office and I couldn’t find anyone who spends more than 30 minutes on e-mail per day. Maybe one hour if they’re in a really busy project. As for personal e-mail, deleting spam takes 5-10 minutes, and reading the interesting e-mails doesn’t add to more than one hour in total.

    Now, of course, the audience of the study may have been different. I’m in Romania, maybe Americans really do like their e-mail that much. But it just seems highly unlikely. As Erik points out, please double-check the methodology, something seems extremely fishy.

  5. The average time an individual spends on checking e-mails given as 5 hours, 36 minutes per day seems completely wrong to me. Of course, it not good, but it not correct as well.

  6. What I find hard to believe about this of those 3+ hours, when do these people check their social media accounts? I would think checking Facebook/Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. could easily waste 5 hours a day. Maybe the personal emails are, in part, notifications from social media, then yes, absolutely believable.

    And for the record, I find it irritating trying to work with these people and get any actual work done.

  7. Insightful as always… but I have to say my favourite part is that you know Frankenstein was the scientist, not the monster!
    Cheers, mate!

  8. We need to practice and teach email management. Canned responses, sorting with labels, snoozing… Most importantly, have a plan and stick to it.
    Certain senders and subjects go to a feed that gets my attention quickly. Team members know to text me or Google chat for immediate response – everything else will be evaluated at set times during the day.
    #intentional #CommunicationSkills

  9. I really like your approach of becoming hard to reach and tell people: I’ve never got an email that said “Hey I’d like to send you money but don’t know how to buy your product”…

    Therefore I put up this contact from + transferred all newsletters to a separate email and transactional emails for software etc. to a 3rd email. (I check the last 2 inboxes maybe once a week and get only high quality email to my main inbox…)

    I almost got no email in my primary inbox, which is awesome 🙂

  10. I’m disappointed – a professor signal-boosting a study with such a flawed methodology! I reflected you to have higher standards.

  11. Shocking statistics. I hope it doesn’t only include mindlessly checking the mailbox for new letters, but also answering and composing them. Still I’ve never spent that much time doing any of these.


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