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Email and social media trouble enterprises

An overwhelming majority of workers today struggle to keep up with an onslaught of email while simultaneously grappling with the enormous challenge of monitoring and using social media, which are still largely being used for personal reasons.

A new survey by Pierre Khawand, founder and CEO of People-OnTheGo, entitled "The New New Inbox - How Email and Social Media Changed Our Lives," reveals that most businesses have yet not learned to efficiently harness use of social media, and that many employees are still using rudimentary tools.

Consequently, says Khawand, "Companies need to conduct training on the various communication platforms and educate the workplace on how to leverage those platforms effectively -- both social media and email which can increase and expand communications pathways within a company"

According to the survey of more than 1000 business professionals, workers are spending more than half of their working day (4.45 hours) on corporate and personal email while also monitoring a wide range of social media. The majority of respondents (67.6 per cent) said they monitor multiple inboxes on a daily basis. Email and social media also take up a huge amount of time, with 65.8 per cent of participants reported interrupting their work constantly or too often just to check their inboxes.

However, only 18.2 per cent responded that they have a clear strategy for dealing with their inboxes while the remaining 81.8 per cent have little or no strategy for dealing with email or social media monitoring.

"These forces bring incredible challenges...but also tremendous opportunities," says Khawand. "With all the excitement about these channels of communication we are now suffering from serious challenges that are leaving our workforce scattered and disoriented, and shrinking the bottom line. However, the next generation of professionals and managers will redefine the tools, channels, platforms that we use to communicate."

Inboxes were once solely used for internal corporate email, but with the advent of the Internet, the "New" inbox connected workers externally beyond their offices and made email the dominant communication tool. Today, the "New" New Inbox includes email and social media feeds together — a potentially valuable tool, but a not unproblematical one due to information overload.

Some key findings revealed by The New New Inbox Survey include:

Email Still Outweighs Social Media by 3 to 1 - Business professionals spend an average of 3.27 hours per day on e-mail and 1.18 hours on social media. Personal and corporate email dominate, followed by Facebook and LinkedIn. Twitter has not gained as much traction among those surveyed, except among younger users who use Twitter more so than others.

Social Media is on the Rise but is Widely Misused - The majority of the survey participants (71.8 per cent) use social media for both work and personal reasons. Social media seems to have significantly reduced the divide between what is work and what is personal, and enabled, or even encouraged, personal and business networks to merge during and after work hours. Use of social media in the workplace is developing rapidly with 58.5% of the survey participants checking Facebook regularly, 47.9 per cent checking LinkedIn regularly, 22.6 per cent checking Twitter, and 21.9 per cent reading blogs. Younger generations lead the pack in their use of social media.

High Costs and Risks for HR and IT but also Opportunities - The majority of participants (67.6 per cent) monitor multiple inboxes. Over 40 per cent of the participants believe that they could use significant improvement while 59.4 per cent believe that they are managing and leveraging these inboxes reasonably well. There are tremendous consequences to this development on all fronts. For HR and IT departments, these platforms bring a myriad of risks that need to be managed while at the same time they bring unprecedented opportunities for reaching the workforce, educating and influencing their behaviour. Pamela Evans, Director of
Executive Programs at NetApp, suggested that companies need to "conduct training on the various communication platforms and educate the workplace on how to leverage those platforms effectively - both social media and email which can increase and expand communications pathways within a company."

The New New Inbox survey also includes information on what can be done to make better use of email and social media going forward including putting in place clear guidelines and educational programs relating to the use of e-mail and social media in the workplace, Declaring social media as an important initiative and formalising the social media effort and seeking improved tools and technologies that can help streamline inboxes.

More than 1000 business professionals participated in the survey. The largest segment (49.7 per cent of the participants) from organizations with 1000 or more employees, followed by participants from organizations with less than 1000 employees (28 per cent of the participants), and then independent consultants and contractors (22.3 per cent of the participants).