Interesting Survey of Email and IM Usage

The American Management Institute (AMA) and the ePolicy Institute recently conducted an interesting survey of email and instant messaging usage. Here we quote some of the results.

Note that most responses came from small and medium size organizations. Many the issues raised don't apply to large organizations, who are better prepared.

Survey Demographics

840 U.S. businesses participated in the 2004 Workplace email and instant messaging survey. Many responses are from small or medium sized organizations. Respondents came from many industries, with the following numbers of employees:

  • 100 or fewer- 26.4%
  • 101–500 -24.8%
  • 501–1000- 11.8%
  • 1001–2500- 10.2%
  • 2501–5000- 7.7%
  • More than 5000- 19.1%

Selected Results

Litigation & Regulation. One in five respondents (20%) has had employee email and IM subpoenaed in the course of a lawsuit or regulatory investigation. This shows that many employers remain largely ill-prepared to manage email and instant messaging risks.

Retention & Deletion. The business community’s failure to retain email and IM according to written retention and deletion policies is alarming. Merely 6% of organizations retain and archive business record IM, and only 35% have an email retention policy in place—a mere 1% increase over the 34% reported in 2003.

Employee Education. 54% of organizations conduct email policy training vs. 48% in 2003 and 24% in 2001.

Email & IM Policies. Only 79% of employers have implemented a written email policy, versus 75% in 2003 and 81% in 2001. Unfortunately, only 20% have adopted a policy governing IM use and content.

Policy Enforcement & Monitoring. Only 11% of organizations employ IM gateway/management software to monitor, purge, retain and otherwise control IM risks and use. 60% use software to monitor external (incoming and outgoing) email, versus 90% in 2003 and 47% in 2001. But only 27% take advantage of technology tools to monitor internal email conversations that take place between employees versus 19% in 2003.

Policy Violations. Survey respondents report sending and receiving the following types of inappropriate and potentially damaging IM content: attachments (19%); jokes, gossip, rumors, or disparaging remarks (16%); confidential information about the company, a co-worker, or client (9%); sexual, romantic or pornographic content (6%).

Compliance & Employee Discipline. Employers are getting tougher about email policy compliance, with 25% of 2004 respondents terminating an employee for violating email policy, versus 22% in 2003 and 17% in 2001.

Email & Productivity. 10% spend more than half the workday (4-plus hours) on email, vs 8% in 2003. 86% engage in personal email correspondence. 12% report that more than half the email they receive at work is spam.


-- Ashish Gupta, Author

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