A Stark Survey
A couple months ago, Adobe released the results of its fourth annual Consumer Email Survey. Drawing from data gathered earlier in the summer from over 1000 panel participants, the survey provides a snapshot of current consumer email habits.
Among other results, it reveals that self-reported time spent checking work email has decreased slightly to 3.1 hours per weekday on average. By contrast, the average time spent checking personal email has increased by almost 20% to 2.5 hours per weekday.
Combined: the average daily time spent checking email is now 5.6 hours — up almost a half hour since 2017.
These numbers are self-reported and therefore should not be taken too literally, and if you look at the histogram provided by Adobe, it’s clear that the variance is significant. The survey still captures, however, the stark reality that the average professional is now dedicating a substantial fraction of their waking hours to sending and receiving digital messages.
An Inescapable Conclusion
No one doubts the reality that it’s more efficient to hit “send” than to print a memo or mail a letter, but as observations like the above become more extreme, the claim that email is a straightforward productivity booster has become increasingly indefensible — the dynamics at play are more complex and decidedly dire.
We cannot, in other words, escape the necessity to radically rethink how we work in the age of computer networks. To use a metaphor appropriate to the October season: survey results like those reported by Adobe are making it unmistakably clear that Frankenstein’s digital monster has escaped the lab.