Headlines: March 31st, 2006

Public sector staff are being overwhelmed by e-mail, according to a study which says many of them see dealing with their electronic inboxes as interfering with their productivity. The problem faces civil servants, council workers, and school and hospital staff.The research was carried out among readers of E- Government Bulletin and was published ahead of next month’s ‘Email management ’06’ national conference, which the specialist publication is sponsoring. Just over half of those questioned for the survey of more than 200 public sector managers and workers said dealing with routine e-mails was a barrier to productivity. The majority of those taking part also felt the time spent sorting through messages would increase over the next year.

About 40 per cent of the managers said they spend more than an hour of each working day dealing with routine tasks like searching or downloading e-mails, deleting spam, filing messages or moving them to folders and printing e-mails. Almost as many – 38 per cent – reported spending between 30 minutes and an hour doing those tasks. Of those spending more than an hour on routine e-mail handling, only two respondents expected to see a decrease in the time they spent doing the tasks in the next year.

Faced with the statement, “The time spent on e-mail administration is a significant barrier in the drive to improve productive time,” 52 per cent of all respondents strongly agreed or agreed. Only a quarter dissented with the remainder undecided. When asked if their organisation had in place a well documented e-mail management policy that was well communicated to staff, 17.5 per cent of respondents said ‘No’, 38.5 per cent said ‘Partially’ and 37.3 per cent ‘Yes’,.

Dan Jellinek, Chair of Email Management ’06, said “These results are alarming because e-mail should be a time-saver and productivity booster, but many public sector workers clearly feel overwhelmed by the amount they have to plough through.” He said councils, government departments and other public sector bodies should have clear policies for managing e-mail to cut the time staff are spending on filtering out spam, responding unnecessarily or reading mail that should be handled by someone else.

Details of the ‘Email management ’06’ event can be found at http://headstar-events.com/email/