Study: The average worker's inbox contains 199 unread emails | Ladders

So much for inbox zero: The average US employees has 199 unread or unopened emails taking up space in their inboxes at any given time.
Office Life

Study: The average worker’s inbox contains 199 unread emails

Emails fly into your inbox at all hours of the day and night, making the elusive “inbox zero” feel even more out of reach.

Just how bad is it?

new report by cloud-based Enterprise Work Management provider Workfront found that US employees average 199 unread or unopened emails taking up space in their inboxes at any given time.

Sixty percent of respondents were on board with the idea that “the time I have to spend dealing with email is time I could be more productive.”

Here are just a few of the other findings from the research.

People find their emails pretty annoying

For the report, researchers surveyed 2,001 enterprise U.S. office employees who work at places with a minimum of 500 workers, work with others on assignments, and use a computer for their work.

This is how knowledge workers use and feel about emails.

A whopping 94% of workers rely on email for work management, with spreadsheets (78%), shared documents (77%), shared networks and/or folders (73%), and handwritten lists (57%) among other popular choices.

“Excessive emails” was found to be the second most chosen thing when it comes to what hinders productivity at 53%, second only to “wasteful meetings” at 57%.

These are among the things people labeled as “a big/somewhat of a problem” when it comes to email:

  • Using a lengthy email to relay info that would be better conveyed through face-to-face or a phone call (55%)
  • Following a conversation through lengthy email threads (55%)
  • Getting copied on emails that are not relevant to your job (54%)

Alex Shootman, CEO of Workfront, commented on the findings in a statement. “Our survey confirms that email, used for the wrong purposes, has become a productivity hazard for workers… The undeniable fact is there are plenty of issues when it comes to email because email was never intended to manage work,” Shootman said.

People don’t like hearing this jargon at work either

If one thing is also clear, it’s that certain terminology grates on people’s eardrums like nails on a chalkboard.

While passive-aggressive work phrases and ridiculous jargon are classic parts of the workplace, the Workfront report also found that certain terms bug people in the office.

People thought these were the most overused. “Think outside the box” was hands-down, the most popular choice at 47%. “Synergy” and “bandwidth” both trailed behind in second place at 18%, followed by “circle back” at 13%, “at a high level” at 12%, and “table this conversation” at 8%, among others.

Here’s what people think work will look like in the future

While 95% of respondents in the Workfront report thought that despite advances in AI, “there will always be the need for the human touch in the workplace,” 88% agreed that “there are a lot of opportunities for those with the right skills in the automated workforce.”

But 34% also think that people in their fields will be going head to head with robots, machines and/or AI “in the not-so-distant future.”

Asked about the workplace of the future, 63% said companies will welcome more use of platforms like Slack, social media, Yammer, and other chat apps when it comes to working together, 53% said more than half of employees will work remotely, and 52% said email will fall further out of favor as people use other communication methods.

When asked to predict how the office will change five years from now, 61% said that they’ll be able to work remotely because of video conference calls, 50% agreed that “mobile phones will become your mobile office,” and 20% think email won’t be a main way to work together anymore.