Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Spending Way Too Much Time On Work Emails

A recent survey of 8,000 office workers discovered something I’ve suspected for many years: people spend way too much time writing email messages, most of which are either never read or quickly skimmed.

The survey was commissioned by Slack and conducted by OnePoll. To be honest, I’ve never heard of either of those organizations — if they even are organizations. Their names kind of sound like pop singers or Hershey’s new line of candy bars.

Anyway, the survey found that the average office worker spends 11 hours each week composing 112 separate work-related emails. Of these 112 emails, only about 40 are fully read and understood by the recipient.
It’s hard to determine exactly how many emails are fully read and understood, so the survey people calculated this number based on the fact that 62% of questions asked in an email go unanswered, while 49% of email senders get asked questions they previously answered.

That sounds about right. For my job, I send out about 130 emails each week. (I actually added them up from each of the previous four weeks to find out.) And I’m certain I spend way more than 11 hours each week composing emails. I’ve never had a stopwatch clicking on and off all day long as I write emails to find out — mostly because that would slow me down as I scramble to address the avalanche of messages I have to deal with each day. 

My full-time job is engineering sales for a commercial HVAC equipment distributor — a job description that does not fit all that well on a business card. For my work, it’s very important that I properly convey a lot of crucial technical information in my emails. There are so many little details, if communicated incorrectly, that could cause a major disaster at some point during a construction project. I know from experience that if a key piece of equipment is delivered to the jobsite on the wrong date, or with the wrong voltage, or the wrong dimensions, or the wrong direction of rotation of the blower — plus any of a hundred other things — it can be a really expensive mistake. I also know from experience that it’s not very pleasant to have a stressed-out contractor screaming at you over the phone and vowing to hunt you down and strangle you with his bare hands. 
So, yeah, I spend a lot of time carefully double-checking all my facts and figures and then crafting each sentence in an email to be as clear and concise as possible. (Something I obviously don’t bother to do when writing these newspaper columns.)

Another reason I take extra time to carefully craft each sentence in my email messages is the fact that many people in my industry have heard that I write a weekly newspaper column. That’s not to say they’ve ever read my column; they’ve only heard about it. You see, the people I work with day in and day out are really smart. But it’s the kind of smart where they can do long division in their heads down to the fourth decimal place. However, to them, being able to write complete sentences with proper grammar is kind of like being able to juggle: it’s a curious and interesting skill, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the real world. 

Even though I receive dozens of emails each day from very intelligent people that appear to have been written by a cat walking across a computer and stepping on random keys, I want to make sure my emails are grammatically correct. Irregardless of whether the recipients actually read them, my emails gots to be excellently goodly in the writing composition thingee. 

1 comment:

  1. Gee, are you saying you are the only one in your office who can write properly and with correct grammar? How odd. I work in a large office and get well written emails all the time. You always seem to be in a position where you are the person who is better than everybody else.
    Ruth O'Keefe