Friday 12th April 2019
How workplace email culture varies around the globe

Email is something we’re all more than familiar with – for most of us, our working lives and communication revolve around the emails we send, and our most clicked-on page on our work computers is our email inbox.

Email has shaped the global nature of our businesses, leading the way in our ability to send instant information internationally, no matter the time zone (something telephone and video doesn’t quite manage!). However, that ‘always on’ feeling, which often sees us receiving emails at 2.30 am, can be as much as a hindrance as it is a help.

Up to 50% of Americans check their emails in bed, and this is symptomatic of a wider issue that affects many of us globally. With email being the top communication choice of many, if not most businesses – after all, 86% of professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes – we’re seeing a blurring of the line between the workplace and home, and with workloads being heavier than before, not to mention our increased usage of transportable devices like smartphones and tablets, the boundary line is almost non-existent for a huge proportion of us.

Up to 50% of Americans check their emails in bed

Indeed, modern technology is to blame for people feeling like they must always be available on their work email accounts. In Singapore, some spend over 12 hours a day on their gadgets, with 90% of them reading emails at regular intervals. In Australia, 50% of inhabitants check their emails via their mobile, likely checking their work email accounts outside of working hours, too. South Africans are seemingly less devoted to their devices, with 28% of emails read via smartphones, however, Australia has a significantly higher percentage of smartphone users than their South African counterparts.

In Singapore, some spend over 12 hours a day on their gadgets, with 90% of them reading emails at regular intervals.

This idea that we must always be connected has famously been fought by some, including the French government, who passed a law allowing French workers the “right to disconnect” and ignore emails that arrive out-of-hours. In fact, many French businesses take this one step further, and actually switch off email servers during non-business hours, so emails simply cannot be sent.

In the UK, we spend an average of 13 working hours each week in our inboxes.

Of course, just because we’re spending a large portion of time on something, doesn’t mean that we’re not being productive – and one could argue that emails have the ability to be more productive than our culture of unnecessary meetings, or even long and drawn-out phone calls. There is also the fact that email is written word, leaving less margin for error in comparison to other communication methods.

Interestingly, we’re not all connecting via our inboxes. In China, email has never quite reached the ubiquitous status it experiences elsewhere, as the instant messaging tool WeChat reigns supreme, with 900 million registered users.

While the rest of the globe is certainly seeing an increase in the use of other forms of communication above email (most notably instant messaging and video chat), we’re not sure that email is quite ready to be killed off for the majority of us.

What is clear is that we’re possibly all spending too much time chained to our inboxes, so perhaps the next time you log into your email, think about how you might be able to make a change for the better, and waste less time combing through message after message.

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