Email Overload: Focus on "Business Critical" Emails

Does email overload exist, and if yes, what affects it? David Sumeckia, Maxwell Chipulua, and Udechukwu Ojiakoa asked 1100 employees of a multinational technology firm and found out that there is a connection between non-critical emails and email overload. 


In an article to appear in the International Journal of Information Management in October, they report on the answers given to their questionnaire about email use.

Some facts they report:

  • There is a lack of agreement of what is a ‘business critical’ message.
  • People who receive more non-business critical emails tend to send more non-business critical emails, thus creating a self-increasing circle of overload.
  • The more time an individual spends managing emails, the higher the overload the individual experienced.
  • Sending emails that are not business critical may take about 8% of the time spent receiving and sending emails.
  • The more an individual accepts that email is a business critical tool, the lower overload s/he experiences. 

They recommend to clearly define and communicate within the firm what business critical mail is. "This would lead to a decreased proportion of non-business critical email in the system. Accordingly, email overload should decrease via two channels:

  1. directly due to the reduction in the number of non-business critical messages circulating and
  2. indirectly as there is more perception that email is a business critical tool."