The conventional 9am–5pm working day and five-day working week is a thing of the past for the overwhelming majority of workers at SMEs, according to a new survey on work-related email habits.

Due to the widespread availability and use of smartphones and tablets, email is more accessible than ever and, as a result, it has become deeply embedded in the daily workplace and personal lives of most employees. The survey which targeted SME staff in the UK and the results highlight employee habits around email usage, including response frequency during the work day as well as after hours.

The new 24/7 paradigm
Based on the typical email habits of survey respondents, work and home life have become tightly intertwined. Three quarters said they check their work email on weekends, and nearly half check work email after 11pm and over half said they keep on top of their work email while on vacation.

The slightly worrying statistic for family balance are the statics that Over 7 per cent of respondents admitted checking work email while attending a child’s school event, and 10 per cent have checked work email during a wedding. A finding which might lead to some very cross words is the fact that Over 6 per cent said they logged into their work email while their spouse was in labour.

Email used at the office more than any other form of communication
Despite the growing use of instant messaging and texting, email dwarfs other forms of office communication. The survey revealed that nearly half of the respondents said they used email for work more than any other communications format, with a quarter still preferring face-to-face meetings as their primary communications method at work, and 24 per cent still opting for phone calls. Less than 3 per cent of those surveyed prefer to use instant messaging.

“Email has transformed the way we do business globally, but has also had a fundamental impact on work/life balance for many employees, especially in smaller organisations where speed of response to orders and queries is critical in retaining competitive advantage against larger competition,” said Phil Bousfield, GM IT Operations at GFI Software, who commissioned the survey.

“The research results have affirmed how critical it is for organisations to manage the use of email effectively, not only to prevent employees from being overwhelmed by a deluge of data, but also to ensure that email is exploited as a revenue generator and benefit to the business, rather than an inconvenience.”

“The research also revealed some worrying trends, including that many organisations are failing to efficiently use their collected email archives for customer relationship management and other business intelligence functions, and that many users are putting their email at risk by maintaining unnecessarily large Outlook PST repositories in order to use their inbox as a living database. This is both inefficient and puts the organisation at risk of substantial data loss from email archive corruption,” Bousfield concluded.