Quick take: New Slack survey finds that email communication is hampering small businesses’ productivity, but employees suggest AI could be part of the solution.
A new Slack study reveals that the average UK employee at a small business spends more than an entire working day drafting emails per week – 99 on average – yet only 42% of emails are likely to be fully read and understood by recipients.
The research reveals the scale of outdated and unnecessary communication in UK companies, and the negative impact it has on productivity.
The average employee deletes or ignores six emails daily based on the subject line alone. In doing so, almost a third (31%) of employees admit they have missed something important that has a negative impact on the company, such as a new business lead or project deadline.
The study of 4,000 UK small business workers reveals the challenges that email and overflowing inboxes can have on their productivity:
- Feeling that their questions haven’t been answered (68%)
- Filtering through irrelevant emails makes it harder to succeed in their role (49%
- Missing emails due to them going to spam or junk folders (48%)
- Unable to find the right information because it’s buried in an email thread (30%)
- Haven’t been cc’d on emails with key information (25%)
When it comes to solutions, 29% believe AI tools will boost productivity with its ability to replace manual and repetitive tasks, receive immediate answers, and free up time to focus on other tasks.
27% of employees believe email is an “outdated form of communication”. Younger generations in particular also struggle with the relevance of emails and the expectation to be “formal”; 45% of Gen Z and 38% of millennials feel this way, compared to only 28% of Gen X and 22% of baby boomers.
Modernising communication and work
The study also highlights how businesses can adopt a new approach to productivity. Solutions include relying less on email and more on synchronous messaging, real-time audio and video huddles and async video clips; making it easy for employees to find and share information by centralising it, and empowering their people to work more efficiently and connect with everyone, no matter where they are or how they work.
“When we look at the data, we’re seeing small business employees in the UK are spending almost 9 hours a week writing emails, many of which aren’t even getting read—and when they are, they’re often skimmed too quickly and misunderstood,” said Ali Rayl, SVP of product management, Slack. “It’s an outdated, inefficient form of communication that isn’t keeping up with the way we collaborate today. Companies that adopt more efficient ways for their employees to communicate are freeing up time for more productive, meaningful work.”
“It’s up to leaders to embrace technology that helps streamline communication and knowledge sharing, accelerates work with AI and automation and which keeps everyone engaged and focused on more meaningful and impactful work,” said Deirdre Byrne, Head of UK and Ireland, Slack. “Email may never fully go away, but if we can get beyond the tyranny of the inbox, we can make a massive difference to work today.”
- Learn more about Slack and how it connects teams, apps, and partners all on one productivity platform
This random double-opt-in survey of 4,000 respondents in the United Kingdom was commissioned by Slack between August 11 and 31, 2023. It formed part of a wider study of United States respondents, totalling 8,000. It was distributed among a mix of in-office, hybrid, and remote workers who send/receive emails as part of a small business of fewer than 200 employees. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).