Businesses Still Reliant on Email as Social Media Use Grows: Mimecast

Workers are dependent on email as a main means of communication, although many are frustrated with its drawbacks as social media fails to offer an appropriate alternative.

Employees spend, on average, 888 hours a year on email and see email as a file store, search engine and collaboration platform, according to the findings of the "Shape of Email" study, conducted by Loudhouse on behalf of cloud-based email management specialist Mimecast. While social media could help ease reliance on email, full convergence between platforms is slow, according to the study, which is based on a survey of 2,500 information workers in the United States, United Kingdom and South Africa.

More than three-quarters (78 percent) of email users said that social media has not reduced their reliance on email for dealing with customers, and 76 percent say that it has not reduced the need for email when communicating with colleagues, the study found. Survey results also showed a disconnect between IT managers and employees when it comes to perception about email use. While 32 percent of IT teams thought social tools had reduced the need for email when communicating with colleagues, only 24 percent of information workers agreed, and while 30 percent of IT managers thought that social media has impacted the need for email when dealing with customers, just 22 percent of users felt the same.

The study indicated users are also frustrated by the limitations of email: Just one in four report high levels of satisfaction with their email functionality, and one in three expect email and social media to converge in the next five years.

Eighty-six percent of email users surveyed rely on email as a search tool to find documents or information from within their inbox or archive. However, with email systems rarely designed for rapid searching, these searches take two minutes on average, suggesting that a lack of intelligent search capability is contributing to the huge amount of time spent using email every day.

"The research shows that the way the average employee uses email at work has changed," Mimecast CEO and co-founder Peter Bauer said in a statement. "For many people, email is no longer just a messaging system. It has become the primary tool for storing, sharing and searching for information. This is why we are seeing information workers increasingly becoming inbox workers; they rely on email for all aspects of their job and spend, on average, 50 percent of their working day using email."

Email is still preferred over social media for all forms of workplace collaboration, including documentation exchange (preferred by 91 percent of respondents), arranging a meeting (89 percent), requesting information (88 percent) and sharing views and opinions (72 percent). Just under three-quarters (74 percent) of information workers said they believe that information shared in an email is taken more seriously than information shared through social media.

"What is clear is that, despite the huge number of specialist collaboration and social tools that have come to market in recent years, email remains the first choice for the majority of business users," Bauer continued. "While email is not perfect, it seems that information workers are reluctant to adopt other, more social, tools if it means they have to leave their inbox behind. Therefore, rather than trying to entice users away from email and on to other platforms, IT teams should look for ways to make their email more efficient by introducing new, inbox-friendly collaboration tools and making the data stored within the archive more accessible."