Over 50 per cent of UK business users are unable to walk away from their emails when on holiday or off sick, according to new research announced at the Inbox/Outbox 2007 event.
More than half of the respondents to a survey by Mesmo Consultancy said that they check emails when out of the office, and 12 per cent check them more than five times a day.
Two-thirds of users admit to voluntarily checking their email, while a fifth said that their company expects them to do so.
Coupled with the report last month by the International Labour Organisation that a quarter of Britons work longer than 48 hours a week, the picture of a happy work/life balance is pretty bleak.
"The role that email plays in office politics, the fear of missing something and being blamed for it, and the amount of personal email received at work account for the lack of delegation and obsessive inbox scanning behaviour contributing directly to the addiction," said Dr Monica Seeley, founder of Mesmo Consultancy.
"Moreover, as the survey showed, the majority of users are expecting to receive a reply to a business email in less than 24 hours. And if a reply is sent immediately, that sets the expectation for the next round of communications, fostering a reactive and unproductive way of working."
In a technology-enabled 'always-on' society, where people are connected to their workplace 24/7, email addiction is rapidly becoming widespread, highlighted by the mushrooming number of internet sites and blogs suggesting rehab tips and techniques.
As the Mesmo survey reported, only 17 per cent of respondents give colleagues permission to deal with their emails in their absence and over 80 per cent read every single email in their inbox.
Even the survey itself highlighted the issue. The research, conducted by email among 4,000 UK business users with 66 per cent of respondents at managerial or director level, attracted approximately half of the responses within the first hour of sending out the survey.
This indicates that the majority of business users are willing to be distracted from the task in hand by emails landing in their inbox, breaking concentration with obvious loss of productivity as a consequence.
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