Using insights from email users to inform organisational email management policy

Judith Ramsay, Karen Renaud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

One would expect email substantially to increase organisational productivity and efficiency. There is little empirical evidence of this since email use is such a complex tool that it would be well nigh impossible to attribute efficiency increases solely to email. There is anecdotal evidence of the positive aspects of email (Phillips, S. R. and Eisenberg, E. M., 1996. Strategic uses of electronic mail in organisations. The Public, 3 (4), 67-81; Virji, A., et al., 2006. Use of email in a family practice setting: opportunities and challenges in patient-and physician-initiated communication. BMC Medicine, 4 (18), doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-4-18), and of aspects of email usage that cause aggravation and concern (Whittaker, S. and Sidner, C., 1996. Email overload: exploring personal information. Management of email. In: Proceedings of the ACM conference on human factors in computer systems, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. New York: ACM, 276283; Fischer, D., et al., 2006. Revisiting Whittaker and Sidner's "email overload" ten years later. In: Proceedings of the 2006 20th anniversary conference on computer supported cooperative work, 4-8 November 2006 Banff, Alberta, Canada. New York: ACM, 309-312). Such anecdotal evidence is of limited use in assessing efficiency gains but serves to prompt studies into the impact of the pervasiveness of organisational email on individual employees. To study this, we spoke to email users about their experiences through a series of reflective semi-structured interviews to gauge the effects of email on the individual user. We linked our findings to a number of behavioural principles and assessed whether the identified email-related behaviours should be encouraged, forbidden or modified. We propose one way of addressing unhelpful emailing behaviours to maximise email's potential for enhancing productivity. We argue that such insights from the level of the individual emailer are the key to maximising email's potential to fulfil its original purpose as a productivity enhancer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-603
JournalBehaviour & Information Technology
Volume31
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • email
  • information overload
  • organisational policy

Cite this

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Using insights from email users to inform organisational email management policy. / Ramsay, Judith; Renaud, Karen.

In: Behaviour & Information Technology, Vol. 31, No. 6, 2012, p. 587-603.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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AB - One would expect email substantially to increase organisational productivity and efficiency. There is little empirical evidence of this since email use is such a complex tool that it would be well nigh impossible to attribute efficiency increases solely to email. There is anecdotal evidence of the positive aspects of email (Phillips, S. R. and Eisenberg, E. M., 1996. Strategic uses of electronic mail in organisations. The Public, 3 (4), 67-81; Virji, A., et al., 2006. Use of email in a family practice setting: opportunities and challenges in patient-and physician-initiated communication. BMC Medicine, 4 (18), doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-4-18), and of aspects of email usage that cause aggravation and concern (Whittaker, S. and Sidner, C., 1996. Email overload: exploring personal information. Management of email. In: Proceedings of the ACM conference on human factors in computer systems, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. New York: ACM, 276283; Fischer, D., et al., 2006. Revisiting Whittaker and Sidner's "email overload" ten years later. In: Proceedings of the 2006 20th anniversary conference on computer supported cooperative work, 4-8 November 2006 Banff, Alberta, Canada. New York: ACM, 309-312). Such anecdotal evidence is of limited use in assessing efficiency gains but serves to prompt studies into the impact of the pervasiveness of organisational email on individual employees. To study this, we spoke to email users about their experiences through a series of reflective semi-structured interviews to gauge the effects of email on the individual user. We linked our findings to a number of behavioural principles and assessed whether the identified email-related behaviours should be encouraged, forbidden or modified. We propose one way of addressing unhelpful emailing behaviours to maximise email's potential for enhancing productivity. We argue that such insights from the level of the individual emailer are the key to maximising email's potential to fulfil its original purpose as a productivity enhancer.

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