Effects of Email Utilization on Higher Education Professionals

Effects of Email Utilization on Higher Education Professionals

Nancy M. Chase (Gonzaga University, USA) and Becky Clegg (Consultant, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1954-8.ch016


This exploratory study examines the impact of email as a primary communication technology upon the perceptions and work behaviors of higher education professionals who support university administrative functions. Based on the interviews and observations of 23 participants, key themes emerged regarding the relationship of email to the interactions of higher education professionals. Findings are presented in three sections: (1) impact on productivity, (2) impact on social interactions, and (3) impact on well-being. The professionals who participated in this study articulated the importance of face-to-face interaction particularly in complex situations; they recognize the need to manage email sender expectations to deal with their own work stresses, and strive to temper the negative impact of constant disruption by email on workplace productivity.
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Literature Review

Research conducted over the past 10 years focused on the overwhelming nature of electronic mail communication citing stress in the workplace, negative social behaviors, and diminished productivity among knowledge workers (Burgess, Jackson, & Edwards, 2003; Ducheneaut & Watts, 2005; Jackson, Dawson, & Wilson, 2002; Neustaedter, Bernheim Brush, Smith, & Fisher, 2005; Whittaker & Sidner, 1996). Smith (2008) reported that the average employee spends between 90 minutes and two hours per day reading email messages. As the email inbox becomes cluttered with retained emails, incoming messages, irrelevant chain mail, and spam, workers may become victims of email overload or, at a minimum, face increasing frustration attempting to manage electronic communication in a disciplined fashion (Betts & Ouellette, 1995; Jackson, Dawson, & Wilson, 2003b).

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