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European workers spend 3.5 years of their lives dealing with irrelevant e-mails

Nick Booth

A survey of over 180 senior managers, conducted by the Henley Management College, found that three and a half years of our working lives are spent on pointless e-mailing, since 32% of messages read and sent are considered irrelevant.

The study, commissioned by Plantronics, revealed that at least two hours each day are spent on e-mail. Researchers at Henley College also concluded that e-mail has a negative impact on organisational performance and collaboration. It argued that phone conversations speed decision-making and improve message clarity.

This is the result of an explosion in e-mail traffic taking place, Peter Thomson, director of The Future Work Forum at Henley management College, said. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that every e-mail sent generates a trail of between four to six additional items popping up in your inbox.

The extensive use of e-mail, particularly for internal transactions is being questioned by managers as a substitute for face-to-face or voice discussion, particularly as e-mail is seen to prolong decision-making.

"E-mail use is out of control, often causing confusion and inertia," said Thomson. "It also paints a bleak picture of silent offices where colleagues e-mail rather than talk face to face. There is a solution and it is very simple - make a phone call with a headset and start talking. E-mail should just be used to firm-up and recap on what everyone has agreed on the phone."





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