Time Is Money: Why the Average Worker Spends Too Much Time on Email

Time Is Money: Why the Average Worker Spends Too Much Time on Email

Whether you’re a manager and looking for ways to improve the productivity of your staff, or a self-employed entrepreneur who understands how important your time is for your profitability, you should know how common it is for workers to spend too much time on email.

Email productivity issues are rampant in all sectors, and at all levels of employment. But if you know the underlying causes of this inefficiency, you can start working to address them.

Lack of Insight

The first and biggest problem is a lack of insight. Most people have no idea how much time they spend on email, and therefore can’t know whether they’re spending too much time on the platform. They don’t have any data visuals, productivity tools, or email analytics tools that can help them pinpoint their bad habits, so they’re stuck repeating the same processes they’ve grown used to over the years.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of Gmail apps that can help you remedy this problem, giving you insight into your email analytics, and directing your attention to problem areas.

The Volume Factor

Email is also a critical area for time waste due to the sheer volume of email in our daily lives. The average office worker gets something like 121 emails per day. If you do the math, you’ll see that even a 1-second time waste per message can lead to 2 minutes of lost time per day, and over 8 hours of wasted time per year.

A 10-second time waste is 20 minutes per day and 80 hours a year. Accordingly, it doesn’t take much to sabotage a worker’s productivity. From the optimist’s viewpoint, even a few-second improvement to email productivity can have a massively positive impact.

The Distraction Factor

Most employees keep their email open in a tab throughout the day, or have email notifications on a smartphone turned on, so they’re constantly notified of incoming messages. This is handy to shorten your response time, but it also has the potential to distract you from your work.

And as scientific evidence suggests, it takes up to 23 minutes for your mind to fully recover from a distraction. You can control this variable by turning off notifications, and disconnecting from your email periodically throughout the day.


Few emailers have a consistent system for organization; instead, they let their emails come in untouched, and address them more or less in the order they came in. This allows some emails to get lost or go without a response, and makes it harder to find older emails.

Every email platform has tools to improve organization, such as labels or folders—but it’s up to you to devise a clear system, and implement it on a daily basis.

Threads and Inefficient Communication

Then there’s the problem of inefficient communication overall. Employees send emails without subject lines, which make it hard for recipients to categorize them. They send 500-word emails when a 100-word email could suffice. They start and continue threads of 20 messages or more that could have been resolved with 5.

There’s no easy way to resolve these complex and, at times, subjective problems, but focusing on conciseness, intent, and scannable formatting (like bullet points and bold sub-headers) can do wonders.

You won’t be able to change your habits or the habits of your employees overnight, but with enough work and dedication to improved efficiency, you can master email as a communication platform. Start looking for points of inefficiency that you can optimize, and let small, iterative habit changes guide you to a more productive, profitable path.

David Jackson

David is a personal finance expert, a professional male model, and an entertainment writer.