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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Are you overloaded with e-mails?

E-mails are meant to make our working lives easier - quick and simple communication without having to leave your desk. But is your inbox getting out of hand?

According to a survey, the average UK worker now sends or receives around 190 messages every day - only five fewer than American workers.

The pressure to handle this increased number of e-mails could be giving workers a new source of stress in their working lives.

Several high profile companies have even sent executives on courses to teach them how to communicate more effectively through e-mail.

Are you suffering from e-mail overload, or has it revolutionised the way you work?

This Talking Point is now closed. Read a selection of your views and experiences below.


Your reaction

Email is an excellent way to keep in touch with people and a useful tool to communicate in the office. People shouldn't feel that they have to reply straight away though.
Ed, England

A couple of decades ago when I started work, we were inundated with external post and internal memos every morning. Things are no worse - now the same sort of stuff comes by e-mail. In fact it is easier to sort through and easier to delete, neater, tidier, saves on paper and hence the environment!
Richard M, Great Britain



I have been away from home for 3 months and the Internet has been a lifeline

Owen, UK (but in Malaysia)
I have been away from home for 3 months and the Internet has been a lifeline. It's allowed me to keep in touch with all those close to me as well as allowing them to get news to me in an emergency. It's much cheaper than phoning home and the availability and cost have been surprisingly good in all the countries I've visited.
Owen, UK (but in Malaysia)

Without e-mail I'd certainly be lost. I easily send/receive more than 190 messages in day - in fact I prefer to receive e-mail over phone calls or verbal instructions - and the number of times I've been able to go back and say "this was said", when there would have been room for denial with a verbal instruction. Too many people are prepared to just put their primary e-mail address on any list, group, or site... then they wonder why they get so much junk????
Vince, UK



It's just a pity that so much spam is sent via email and an even greater pity how much of it is pure filth.

Tristan Abbott-Coates, UK/USA
Email is a wonderful invention that allows young and old alike to communicate without having to write a five page letter to justify using the postal service. It's just a pity that so much spam is sent via email and an even greater pity how much of it is pure filth.
Tristan Abbott-Coates, UK/USA

A bit of common sense soon sorts out the emails - but the figure of 190 a day sounds daft - who did they survey! - that sounds like a weekly figure.
bob, UK



The big issue today is so-called junk mail

Andrej, Russia
A person with a lot of personal and business contacts would be as overloaded with e-mails as he or she would be with paper mail. The big issue today is so-called junk mail. I have no idea how all those advertisers get my e-mail addresses, but I block at least a dozen senders daily. Unlike regular junk mail, the problem with junk e-mail is that 99% of it doesn't contain useful information.
Andrej, Russia

The answer is to use the technology and not let it rule and ruin your life.
John Brownlee, England

I have to say I find it really hard to believe that the average British worker sends and receives 190 emails a day. Even supporting systems for a dozen clients in five countries, I rarely get as many as fifty emails in a day, and several of those are "spam". Methinks a decimal point has been misplaced somewhere along the line.
Guy Chapman, UK

I agree that e-mail overload is becoming a problem. A message, which can be so very quickly produced, can lead to an inordinate amount of time spent in replying. The first day on returning from a period of leave can be spent just sorting through e-mails.
Jim Foreman, England



Leaving important messages to the vagaries of mail-servers is not wise

Simon L, UK
I work in IT and regularly get 60+ e-mails a day. I actually only read about 15 of these as I use the automated features of my mail program (with some additions) to categorise e-mails into "Important", "Normal, "Trash", "Personal" (regardless of what priority the sender thinks their message is).
If I miss something which is vital, people *always* call or speak to me personally about it anyway. Leaving important messages to the vagaries of mail-servers is not wise. Want a job done right.....?
Simon L, UK

I think e-mail is terrific. With paper memos I always felt obliged to read them, e-mails enable me to quickly scan the subject heading and trash 90% of them.
For personal correspondence worldwide, e-mail keeps me, family and friends instantly in touch. I'm more irked by those who refuse to embrace the net, enveloping letters and conventional photos, trudging off to the post office is tiresome.
Tom, Australia

Even with subscription mailing lists and so on, my colleagues and I still don't send or receive more than a couple of dozen e-mails per day, and we're in a busy computer department where e-mail communication is the norm. 190 messages must be an average skewed by gross abuse somewhere, not a real indicator of the prevalence of e-mail in office culture.
David Gosnell, UK



I am a lawyer in an investment bank and remember all too well the 80 page faxed drafts clogging up the machines and wasting paper

Kurt, UK
The constant beeping as emails ping into my inbox during the course of the day is something I have gotten used to and I find it is fairly easy to weed out the timewasters. When receiving draft documentation it sure beats faxes. I am a lawyer in an investment bank and remember all too well the 80 page faxed drafts clogging up the machines and wasting paper. Now they come by email and stay in electronic form until required for completion.
Kurt, UK

If we suffer from anything it is overload of these stupid surveys and reports from so-called learned bodies and research establishments with nothing better to do with their time!
Steve Foley, England

One big issue seems to be misuse of distribution lists. I work for the UK arm of an American multi-national. It's amazing how many of the Americans send "important" messages to large groups of staff about stuff which is only relevant in the USA. They are very good at forgetting there's anywhere else in the world!
John, England

I find e-mail relieves stress. It's less intrusive than a phone call or co-workers appearing suddenly at your desk.
Catherine Penfold, UK in USA

All to often email users give out their email address all too freely. Would they give out their home address so readily?
Nick Bishop, UK



If productivity is slipping as workers drown in a deluge of e-mail, company directors have no one to blame but themselves

Phil Saum, UK
E-mail is only getting out of hand because people don't know how to use it properly. This is simply because most people have never been trained. Typically, an employer thinks that it is enough to train someone how to use the e-mail programme without giving any regard to using, what is to many, a totally new form of communication.

If productivity is slipping as workers drown in a deluge of e-mail, company directors have no one to blame but themselves.
Phil Saum, UK

If you suffer from e-mail overload you need to educate the authors of excessive e-mails to make decisions for themselves and leave you alone.
Ian Bailey, England

I certainly find that I can receive e-mails that average about 50+ a day. I work in the IT industry as a Support Analyst troubleshooting IT problems for both the UK and Europe. The temptation is sometimes to continue working on a existing problem whilst on a lunch break or at times no breaks at all, especially if it's an on-going problem that you feel requires your attention. The "cc" culture is very annoying
Leena, UK

190 e-mails a day? I get about 30-40 and I thought that was a lot. I use e-mail to keep in touch with friends from around the country, and it makes life so much easier. You can send a two-line message via e-mail, but if you ring or write, you feel obliged to put more effort in, so you don't bother. I wouldn't be in touch with so many people without it.
Chris Cowdery, UK

Yes, I suffer from an e-mail overload. Recently, I got a message from a friend about an overload of messages. And that message itself would not download.
Anthony D' Costa, India

This is just another excuse for whingers to claim that life is "too difficult". When you get an email, either file it, delete it, delegate it or act on it. It's better than being asked things verbally, as there is an automatic record of everything.
John B, UK

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See also:

22 Jun 00 | UK
Is e-mail out of Ctrl?
24 Feb 00 | UK
E-mail stress overload
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