Picture: MARIANNE SCHWANKHART
Picture: MARIANNE SCHWANKHART

Barry Gill, senior product marketing manager at Mimecast, which provides cloud e-mail services, spoke to Margaret Harris

What is an "inbox worker"?

Inbox workers are people whose work style revolves almost exclusively around e-mail. They use their e-mail inbox to file information, manage tasks, control workflows and handle their primary communications.

Mimecast's Shape of Email report shows that 86% of e-mail users surveyed rely on e-mail as a search tool to find documents or information and 76% say that the introduction of social media has not reduced their need for e-mail when communicating.

How would I know if I was an inbox worker?

Inbox workers rely on e-mail for much of their working day, but their dependence can give rise to bad corporate behaviour.

 According to the report, 39% regularly send and receive workplace e-mail outside of working hours and 25% admit that they have sent e-mails late in the evening purely to "show commitment".

A distinct trait of an inbox worker is to use their e-mail account as their default way of storing, filing and searching for documents or information. They also like to be copied on e-mails, even regarding non-essential messages.

In short, if you are checking your e-mails while you are visiting the loo, you are an inbox worker.

Now that e-mail has become the default corporate communications tool, are we more or less productive?

E-mail has been the default corporate communications tool for many years. As its use has proliferated, so have the workflows that rely on it or incorporate it as a relevant element. E-mail has kept our productivity high relevant to the workflows at hand.

E-mail is evolving. Now there are new ways - such as Mimecast's File Archiving - in which we can incorporate e-mail into our workflows, allowing greater opportunity to enhance productivity levels.

How has the way in which we use e-mail changed since it first made its appearance?

The Shape of Email research shows that the way the average employee uses e-mail at work has changed. For many people, e-mail is no longer just a messaging system. It has become the primary tool for storing, sharing and searching for information.

This is why we are seeing information workers increasingly becoming inbox workers - they rely on e-mail for all aspects of their job and spend, on average, 50% of their working day using e-mail.

Despite the huge number of specialist collaboration and social tools that have come to market in recent years, e-mail remains the first choice for most business users.

E-mail is not perfect, but it seems that information workers are reluctant to adopt other social tools if it means they have to leave their inbox behind.

Therefore, rather than trying to entice users away from e-mail and on to other platforms, IT teams should look for ways to make their e-mail more efficient by introducing new, inbox-friendly collaboration tools and making the data stored within the archive more accessible.

*This article was first published in Sunday Times: Money & Careers