Gartner: No rest for the work e-mail addict

While loads of U.S. residents take extra time off this week to enjoy the July 4th holiday, it won't all be fun and games. Between firecrackers and wiener roasts, e-mail addicted workers will be frantically checking their business accounts, fearing that they could fall out of the loop if they don't log on.

According to a study released Monday by technology researcher Gartner, 42 percent of U.S. users check their business e-mail while on vacation, while 23 percent check e-mail over weekends.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. During workdays, 53 percent of users check their e-mail six or more times a day, according to Gartner, while a whopping 34 percent check e-mail constantly throughout the day.

The good news is that the Gartner survey revealed that these e-mail addicts will at least get some reward for all their effort. U.S. users receive an average of 22 e-mail messages a day. However, only 27 percent of these require immediate attention and 37 percent are what the research group calls occupational spam, meaning gratuitous e-mail from co-workers like messages reading simply "OK!"

All this e-mail checking eats up time, Gartner reported, with the average user spending 49 minutes a day just managing their mail.

So, why are U.S. workers so attached to e-mail? Gartner senior research analyst Maurene Caplan Grey proffered her own theories. One is that constant e-mail checking is a new corporate security blanket. Without it, users feel vulnerable and left behind.

"With the downturn in the economy, I think workers feel that their jobs are in jeopardy," Caplan Grey said.

Furthermore, many users check their mail just to stay ahead over the weekend and while on vacation, so they don't return to work and have to sort through hundreds of e-mail messages, she added.

But Caplan Grey did have a few suggestions for the e-mail inundated to help them gain control of their mail lives, at least while they are away on vacation.

One is using an automated out-of-office message to cut down on the amount of messages sent. Also, users can ask a colleague whom they trust to check their mail for them, and respond to urgent office matters.

During the work week or over weekends, the analyst suggested setting a specific time each evening to spend 10 minutes responding to important mail. That way, users can leave mail until that set time, freeing their minds for other matters.

"It's important to know what your burnout limit is," Caplan Grey said.

The Gartner survey of 330 corporate e-mail users was conducted in February and March of this year and included a cross section of industries and workers.

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