Email: HR’s number one time-stealer

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Adobe’s study of 1,000 white-collar professionals estimated that people were spending an average of 4.1 hours checking email every day. That’s over 20 hours a week, 1,000 hours a year or, for those with a taste for the dramatic, 280 solid weeks of email checking, writing and sending over the course of a career.

Email is a victim of it’s own usefulness

It’s not hard to see how we got here. In a little over two decades, email’s ubiquity and literal light-speed efficiency has delivered a workplace revolution. But for many, including HR, email’s suitability for so many tasks created a trap. 

Today, much of the workforce administration that HR professionals spend their lives performing is conducted through email. 

In a recent study by People Today and CIPR, HR professionals estimated that almost a third of their time is spent reading, responding to and generally managing their emails. 

There are a number of things you can do to become more effective with email, or to be more accurate, to stop email making you less effective at everything else. 


Bill Gates famously filtered all email senders so only certain people could reach him; those in his company, those who he’d corresponded with in the past, and his friends. Gates’s approach might not be so applicable to a busy HR professional with a demanding workforce to manage, but his spirit of discipline and management can be. 

For instance, popular advice is to train yourself not to check your inbox every five minutes (caution, this can be a hard habit to break). Schedule specific times twice a day when you will check and respond to emails. And turn off pop-up notifications. They’re a distracting productivity-destroyer. 

Google will provide almost a million articles with titles like, ‘101 ways to be better at email’, or ’10 routes to a zero inbox’. But these tips and tricks are like trying to plug a leaky dam with blu-tack. 

Email, the stop-gap

The dam is leaking in the first place because over time we’ve shoe-horned multiple processes into our emails, a simple, all-purpose communication platform that was designed for none of them. At the beginning, within smaller organisations, this is usually manageable, although inefficient.

But when a workforce reaches a critical size and complexity, these leaks must be addressed at source before those optimistically placed pieces of blu-tack start to come unstuck. 

Good emails v bad ones

In the CIPD research, 32% of HR’s time was spent on email. But that’s not all wasted time. What the research didn’t tell us was how much of that time was spent on the valuable tasks, like advising line management on strategic issues, supporting employees, managing grievance. These are imperative HR responsibilities for which email is perfectly suited. 

It’s the unnecessary, time-stealing emails we aim to eradicate; dealing with holiday and absence; managing training schedules and performance management processes, recruitment and onboarding; and most of all, answering queries by pointing the sender towards the resources they either didn’t know about or didn’t check for. 

We help organisations remove these time stealers from their email inboxes, implementing systems that automate and allow employees to manage them.

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