Email usage among American employees in 2022

Rudolfs Millins 1.02.2023

At DeskTime, we love diving into data, and today we’re tackling an exciting topic: the email habits of our American users in 2022. 

It’s a subject that often sparks debate – many still believe that emails tend to consume a lot of time and hinder productivity. However, there are very few data-based studies on email usage habits, and most discussions on the subject reference outdated data.

To that end, we are excited to offer fresh insight into this topic. We have gathered email usage data of DeskTime users in the USA, and we will analyze the amount of time American users spend on emails and see how it compares to previous studies. 

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Key findings

  • DeskTime’s new research shows that Americans spend significantly less time on emails than suggested by earlier studies
  • American users spent an average of 27 minutes per day on emails
  • The average American worker spends 8.6% of their work time on emails
  • Americans spend 32.4% more time on emails compared to European workers, who, on average, only spend 18.42 minutes
  • This study suggests that emails do not deserve their reputation as time-consuming productivity killers

Research methodology and data

In November 2022, DeskTime conducted a study to analyze email usage among its productivity software users in the USA. The study included over 10,000 participants, primarily composed of knowledge workers. By collecting data on the monthly time spent on email, DeskTime was able to calculate the average daily email usage per person. 

RegionTime on emails per day per person (min)Emails as a % of total work time

DeskTime’s data shows that email usage among employees is higher in the USA in comparison to Europe as a whole, in terms of both average time spent daily and proportion of total work time. However, Americans still spend less time on emails compared to certain European countries.

To provide context, when comparing USA data to individual European countries, Americans would rank 9th, with their average time spent on emails being similar to Romania (28.50 min). The American average of 27 minutes is significantly lower than the European country with the highest email usage, Malta, where users, on average, spend 55 minutes on emails.

Emails: not as time-consuming as previously thought?

The data collected by DeskTime contradict some of the previous findings on email usage. For example, a widely-referenced 2012 McKinsey study estimated that people spend 2.6 hours per day on email. In 2019, software company Adobe revealed that employees in the U.S. spend a whopping five hours per day on email. 

There is a significant difference between these findings and the new data collected by DeskTime. Understandably, previous studies led to the belief that emails are a major time drain and a hindrance to productivity – which might not be the case these days, at least for DeskTime American userbase. Spending 27 minutes per day – or 8.6% of total work time – does not seem excessive at all.  

Previous studies have led to the perception that emails are a significant time drain and an obstacle to productivity, but a new study of DeskTime American userbase suggests that this may not be the case. The study found that American employees spend only 27 minutes per day on email, which is equivalent to 8.6% of their total work time. This suggests that email usage may not be as detrimental to productivity as previously believed.

A woman working on a MacBook

The perception of emails as a productivity nemesis is based on old and unreliable data

So, what explains such a stark difference between DeskTime’s data and previous studies? 

One reason is methodology. DeskTimes findings are based on our productivity software users’ actual habits. The software can accurately track and record the amount of time spent on activities, tasks, and applications. In other words, it’s hard data – collected from a robust sample of 10,000 American users. 

Other methods of collecting this type of data are likely to be less accurate. For instance, if you survey individuals and ask them to estimate their email usage, you are at the mercy of their subjective perceptions of time management. 

Another factor is that workplace and productivity trends are constantly evolving, especially in light of the Covid pandemic – not to mention the changes that have occurred since the publication of the McKinsey report over a decade ago.

For example, there is good reason to believe that email usage has declined due to the rise of instant messaging apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams. Microsoft reports that its platform had 270 million users in 2022, showing significant growth since its introduction in 2017 when it had only 2 million users. With the advent of such platforms, email usage has very likely seen a decline as it’s no longer the only option for communication in the modern workplace. 

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Conclusion: changing the narrative

DeskTime’s recent research debunks the longstanding belief that emails are a major cause of time wastage. With American users spending an average of 27 minutes per day, or 8.6% of their total work time, on emails, there is no evidence to suggest that emails are responsible for productivity issues.

However, the relative decline of email also means we now work in a more complex environment where various communication tools vie for users’ attention. For a while, email was considered a simple explanation for the difficulties we face in a fast-paced and data-heavy world. 

Perhaps that myth has been dispelled – but it means we are now faced with more questions about what actually hinders and what drives the modern employee. These emerging trends will, no doubt, benefit from the same data-based approach as the present inquiry.

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