Most Workers Still Prefer E-Mail

By Aliah D. Wright Sep 7, 2017

Not so fast, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram.

E-mail isn't going anywhere.

Adobe, the San Jose, Calif.-based software company, reports in its study of 1,007 U.S. white-collar workers with smartphones that although technology continues to change how people interact, e-mail use is thriving.

Just how prevalent is e-mail?

E-mail Is the No. 1 Way to Communicate at Work

The Adobe Consumer Email Survey Report 2017 stated that e-mail is the preferred method of communication at work, with about 36 percent of respondents using it. Conversely, only 1 percent of respondents say they use enterprise social networks like Slack, Asana, Yammer, Jive, or SAP Jam. Addtionally, some 85 percent of respondents said they expect their use of work e-mail to either increase or stay the same over the next two years. People spend an average of 3.3 hours per weekday checking their work e-mail.

E-mail is also increasingly used by older workers.

Millennials Are Obsessed with E-Mail

Despite Millennials' high use of social media and texting, they check e-mail more frequently than any other age group, the study found. And more than any other age group, Millennials expect their use of e-mail to increase over the next two years. Millennials said they were more likely to open their work missives (82 percent) than personal e-mails (60 percent). Of the e-mails opened, Millennials read 83 percent of work e-mails and 64 percent of personal e-mails. Just 35 percent of respondents said they open their work e-mails on their smartphones.

Many Check E-Mail Where They Shouldn't 

E-mail usage is so prevalent, the study shows, that 43 percent of people check their e-mail in the bathroom, while 14 percent check while driving.

Although people spend a total of 5.4 hours daily during the workweek on both personal and work e-mail, they reported checking their e-mail less often than they did last year.

E-Mail Travels on Vacation

Employees are increasingly trying to ignore e-mail on vacation, with 47 percent not checking or rarely checking work e-mail while on vacation, up from 42 percent in 2016.

"Just like you recharge your phone, you need to recharge your own battery with a real tech break," work/life balance expert Samantha Ettus told The Washington Post. Ettus, author of The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction (Ghost Mountain Books, 2016), said "You can't rely on your company or colleagues to set your boundaries for you. That's your job."

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Workplace Monitoring and Surveillance]


About 46 percent of workers who took vacations in August said they checked e-mail while on vacation; 32 percent said they occasionally checked it, 24 percent said they rarely did, 23 percent say they never did, 17 percent said they frequently did and 4 percent said they constantly did.

E-Mail: King of Communication Tools

People would rather e-mail others than meet face to face or talk on the phone, with 52 percent of respondents saying their company's main communication tool was e-mail, followed by in-person meetings (20 percent), the telephone (13 percent), instant messaging (9 percent), videoconferencing (4 percent) and enterprise social networks (2 percent).

Most people could benefit from learning how to send e-mails that are more efficient.

Ty Kelley, Ph.D., director of academics at Pearson Education/Wall Street English in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, teaches classes on how to send professional e-mails. She told SHRM Online that she tells students that when they send electronic missives to "be clear about anything you want the recipient to do." Paying attention to detail may eliminate the need to send more e-mails.

Was this article useful? SHRM offers thousands of tools, templates and other exclusive member benefits, including compliance updates, sample policies, HR expert advice, education discounts, a growing online member community and much more. Join/Renew Now and let SHRM help you work smarter.


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect