Have you considered how much email costs?Have you ever considered how much email costs you?

One of the deceptive things about email is that we think it’s free. But the majority of us are too young to remember the days when velociraptors ruled, and we had to actually PAY for email services (Prodigy and AOL represent!). Even at work, the email costs of support are so outweighed by savings on postage, travel and paper, it seems to be a HUGE bargain.

By any measurement, we spend about a third to a half of our workday reading or responding to email.
And since the average manager claims to spend half of their day in meetings, we can only assume that a lot of email is also being done IN meetings, but that’s another problem for another day.

That’s a lot of time, and we know that not everything we do is mission critical. In fact, a lot of it is just plain junk, repetition, irrelevant or mildly annoying.

Then, there’s the actual money involved…

Let’s assume you’re making a salary of $50,000 per year. (That seems high as a base, but a lot of the real work like cooking your burgers, mowing lawns and changing bandages is done by people who are too busy actually WORKING to deal with email as part of their jobs—this is largely a white-collar problem).

It also makes for easy multiplication:

  • That’s $25 per hour.
  • If we figure an 8-hour work day (stop laughing, it could happen someday) and a third of that is spent on email, that’s 2.64 hours a day.
  • That’s $66 per work day, or $1320 a month. That, by the way, is just the hourly cost—it doesn’t include lost productivity, rework or replacing smashed phones and monitors. (You know who you are.)

Whether you’re paying that cost financially or emotionally, we don’t have to put up with it.

Here are a few ways for you to lower how much email REALLY costs you:

  • Check email a few times a day instead of every time you get a notification. You’d be surprised how often you can ignore a request because someone else has answered, or how multiple emails can be addressed with a single response. (You also will be able to get something done, which is nice.)
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters and ads as soon as you get them. Take the 30 seconds. Not only does it save you from having to read and delete them again, it reduces the volume of email and feels really satisfying.
  • Use instant messaging when appropriate, and (I’m showing my age, here) pick up the darned phone. Sometimes you just need to answer the question or solve the problem once and for all.

The sad part? None of this is really news to you. Yet we continue to waste time, money, and what’s left of our lives.

It’s about time to do something about it.

We can help. If you’d like to get a jump start on getting some control of your written communication, check out our video course on Writing and Managing Email.


Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel
Co-founder and Product Line Manager
The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Marshall Goldsmith calls him “one of the unique voices to listen to in the virtual workplace”. He works with organizations around the world to help people use technology to lead people and projects and build productive human connections in an increasingly remote and virtual work environment.

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