The use - and, particularly, the misuse - of email costs businesses up to $16,000 per employee per year, a new study has found.
Thomas Jackson of the UK's Loughborough University and Sharman Lichtenstein of Australia's Deakin University say that problems such as unclear messages, email overload, security and privacy issues and email interruptions all slow staff down.
They developed a formula based on a salary of £41,000, the average number of emails received and the average time taken to read them, the total recovery time between reading email and getting back to normal work tasks and the number of employees in the organisation.
They found that for an organisation with around 3,000 employees with access to email, the cost works out at just over $8,000 per employee. For a company with 6,000 email users, the costs were much higher, at well over $16,000 per employee per year.
The survey revealed that almost one in five emails was copied unnecessarily to staff members other than the main recipient. Thirteen percent were irrelevant or untargeted, and well under half were for information purposes. Fewer than half of emails that required an action on the part of the recipient actually stated what that action was.
Ironically, though, almost half of employees felt that their own emails were easy to read.
"These findings may help organisations to become more effective in managing their email communication systems," the researchers say.
"It is recommended that communication managers or others responsible for email policy and management examine their email policies and develop a 'snapshot' of how their employees use email."