New Research Reveals Banning Email in the Workplace Wrong Approach to Email Overload

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Etiquette Identified as Key to Improve Work-Life Balance, Productivity: According to Study by The Grossman Group and LCWA Research Group

We’ve seen companies around the world experimenting with email black-outs or time-outs,” said David Grossman, communication expert, author, founder and CEO, The Grossman Group. “However, our research reveals that’s not the most effective approach.

A trend among global companies that eliminates or limits internal email to employees is a misguided strategy, based on research released today by The Grossman Group, a communications consultancy, and LCWA Research Group.

Results of the 2012 Work-Related Email Perception Study, “Enough Already! Stop Bad Email,” show that while middle managers typically spend 100 hours (6,000 minutes) a year on irrelevant email, they don’t want their ability to use email taken away or interrupted at any time of the day or night. They do, however, want policies that address the overwhelming volume of irrelevant email. Findings reveal:

  •     Executives (84 percent), middle managers (83 percent), supervisors (84 percent) and employees (77 percent) overwhelmingly agree email is an effective and necessary communication tool.
  •     Only 8 percent of executives, 15 percent of middle managers, 10 percent of supervisors and 11 percent of employees said limiting email during normal business hours would be very effective.
  •     Only 11 percent of executives, 20 percent of middle managers, 8 percent of supervisors and 13 percent of employees said limiting email outside normal business hours would be very effective.
  •     Only 3 percent of executives, 12 percent of middle managers, 7 percent of supervisors and 7 percent of employees said eliminating email outside business hours would be very effective.

“We’ve seen companies around the world experimenting with email black-outs or time-outs,” said David Grossman, communication expert, author, founder and CEO, The Grossman Group. “However, our research reveals that’s not the most effective approach. We know employees are overloaded by their inboxes and it’s causing them stress, yet our research shows it’s email misbehaviors that need to be addressed.

“Just as important, leaders must establish guidelines, which are in line with company culture, for how email should be used. For example, one expectation might be that in the general course of business, email does not need to be answered outside business hours, unless specifically directed because of an urgent business need.”

Respondents rated reasons why they want flexibility to access work-related email after hours including:

  •     Making sure nothing is missed (52 percent of middle managers, 51 percent of supervisors and 48 percent of employees)
  •     Preparing for the upcoming day (51 percent of middle managers, 45 percent of supervisors and 47 percent of employees)
  •     Read/respond to emails that couldn’t be addressed during normal business hours (47 percent of middle managers, 40 percent of supervisors and 40 of percent employees)
  •     Lessen the workload for the following day (44 percent of middle managers, 45 percent of supervisors and 39 percent of employees)

“The goal of this research was to better understand how a cross-section of Corporate America feels about email in their workplace and how they use it,” said Greg Gordon, senior vice president, research and strategy, LCWA Research Group. “We wanted to gather insights that would inform strategies for solutions in a way that helps communicators meet the needs and work habits of all employees.”

While respondents said they don’t want access to email interrupted, they do want policies that address the overwhelming volumes of irrelevant emails. Middle managers are most affected (middle managers spend 6,000 minutes a year on irrelevant email, while supervisors spend 5,250 minutes a year and employees spend 4,250 minutes a year).

Sixty-one percent of executives and 55 percent of middle managers said that email policies would be very effective in their organization.

Respondents identified their top issues with work-related emails as: 1) excessive back-and-forth replies 2) using email when a meeting/phone call is more appropriate 3) unnecessary use of “reply all” 4) poorly written emails that lack clarity and 5) copying others unnecessarily.    

The web-based survey included 1,300 respondents comprised of corporate executives within Fortune 1,000 companies, middle managers, supervisors and non-supervising employees. For more information:

“Enough Already! Stop Bad Email” provides an executive summary of the findings of the 2012 Work-Related Email Perception Study.
“Defrost the Frozen Middle” discusses the cost of email and the plight of middle managers’ email overload and work-life balance.

“The Definitive Guide to Taming the Email Monster,” is an e-book produced by The Grossman Group.

Chicago Editor’s Note: David Grossman will be presenting “21st Century Communications: Successful strategies to deliver authentic communications that engage employees and build reputation” at the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) World Conference, on June 26, 2012 at 1:30 pm at the Sheraton Towers in Chicago. At the conference, The Grossman Group booth #108 will feature an interactive diagnostic tool to help companies determine how much is lost in productivity and dollars due to ineffective email.    

About David Grossman and The Grossman Group
A leading consultant, speaker and author, David Grossman is one of America's foremost authorities on communication inside organizations. Grossman is both a teacher and student of effective communication and is founder and CEO of The Grossman Group (, an award-winning Chicago-based communications consultancy which focuses on organizational consulting, strategic leadership development and internal communications for Fortune 500 clients. David’s often quoted in media and provides expert commentary and analysis on employee and leadership issues. Most recently, he was featured on the “NBC Nightly News” and in the Chicago Tribune. His latest book is entitled “You Can't NOT Communicate 2: More Proven Solutions That Power the Fortune 100”; his latest e-book, “Can You Hear Me Now?” For David’s full bio, visit

About LCWA Research Group
The LCWA Research Group is a division of L.C. Williams & Associates, a full-service public relations, research and communications services firm. LCWA’s research capabilities range from employee communication and engagement assessments to marketing and branding studies, consumer surveys and association member satisfaction and development studies. LCWA designs qualitative and quantitative projects, conducts and manages data collection, analyzes data, and develops fact-based recommendations, plans and messaging. Among LCWA’s proprietary research tools is its award-winning Internal Communication Climate Index™, which focuses on five critical dimensions of effective organizational communication: Mutual Purpose, Employee Advocacy, Information Flow, Senior Leadership and Direct Supervisor.

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