24% of Americans think reaching ‘inbox-zero’ is an impossibility

Previous research found the average worker’s inbox has 199 unread emails and new data shows that 24% of Americans think reaching “inbox-zero” is impossible.

While previous research has found that the average worker’s inbox has 199 unread emails, new Adobe data shows that 24% of Americans think reaching “inbox-zero” is impossible.

For a little more context, the company defined it “as acting on every email as it comes in to move it out of your inbox immediately (delete, respond, or delegate).”

Advanis surveyed 1,001 Americans with “white-collar” jobs and smartphones for Adobe’s research.

How people feel about the coveted “inbox-zero”

Here’s how people feel about this concept:

  • “Relieving:” 39%
  • “It’s borderline OCD:” 27%
  • “Amazing:” 27%
  • “Impossible:” 24%

While 55% of people surveyed say that they reach “inbox-zero,” 45% say they don’t.

How often people look at their email inboxes

Overall, 70% of people said that they look at their inbox “as often as I should.” In that vein, here’s how often people look at their work email inbox “outside of normal work hours:”

  • “Never:” 18%
  • “Every few hours:” 49%
  • “Every hour:” 11%
  • “Multiple times per hour:” 13%
  • “Constantly:” 9%

Here’s how often people look at their personal email inboxes in the office:

  • “Never:” 10%
  • “Every few hours:” 52%
  • “Every hour:” 14%
  • “Multiple times per hour:” 15%
  • “Constantly:” 9%

Respondents admitted to spending an average of 3.1 hours looking at their work inboxes each weekday. Forty percent say they spend a maximum of one hour on it, while 12% say they spend greater than six hours during the same period of time.

When it comes to personal email, people spend an average of 2.5 hours looking it each weekday. But while 52% say they spend a maximum of one hour doing this, 9% say they spend greater than six hours in the same time frame.

Email-checking creeps into these circumstances

On vacation, 28% say they “never” look at their work inboxes, 24% “rarely” do, 28% “occasionally” do, 16% “frequently” do, and 3% “constantly” do.

Here’s when people said they looked at their work inboxes “in the past month.” They could choose more than one answer:

  • “While watching TV/movie:” 41%
  • “While in bed:” 31%
  • “While on the phone:” 30%
  • “While in the bathroom:” 28%
  • “While walking:” 22%
  • “While commuting to/from work:” 22%
  • “During a meal with others:” 19%
  • “While in a face-to-face conversation:” 12%
  • “While working out:” 12%
  • “While driving:” 10%
  • “While at a formal ceremony:” 8%
  • “None, I haven’t checked during any:” 25%

The most common way that people say that they “regularly” go through their emails is using a smartphone, at 85%.

How people feel looking at their work emails

Here’s how respondents weighed in:

  • “Indifference:” 41%
  • “Accomplished:” 20%
  • “Excitement:” 17%
  • “Anxiety:” 14%
  • “Dread or guilt:” 8%

Jane Burnett|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at jburnett@theladders.com.