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E-Mail Addiction Drives Risky Behavior: Report

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Tweeting and social networks are increasingly popular, but good, old e-mail continues to be a key communications tool for U.S. workers, who often use it to an extreme, according to a new report.

In the second annual Mobile Messaging Study by Osterman Research, more than 95 percent of respondents said they still check e-mail after work hours. That can lead to some potentially awkward — if not downright dangerous — behavior.

A large majority of the survey’s respondents “continue to engage in risky and inappropriate behaviors at the same rate as last year, with 76 percent admitting to driving while texting (DWT), 78 percent admitting to checking messages in the bathroom and 11 percent admitting to doing so during an ‘intimate moment,'” according to the report.

The key results are close to last year’s report, both of which were commissioned by software company Neverfail, a provider of continuous availability and disaster recovery services.

Still, some changes have taken place since Osterman and Neverfail last looked at the topic. The survey found that e-mail addiction during air travel this year is down 11 percent, with just 30 percent of respondents now admitting they send e-mails from mobile devices while in flight.

Separately, Osterman specifically surveyed IT directors, managers and CIOs across a broad range of industries to explore the impact of mobile messaging on overall business processes. In these results, some 85 percent said they would be impacted by one hour of downtime of access to their mobile e-mail. Additionally, 84 percent of those responding believe that their senior manager’s ability to make critical, time-sensitive decisions would be affected without access to mobile e-mail.

Risky and inappropriate behaviors

The broader overall report concludes employees have either a job requirement or perceived need to be constantly available for work-related issues. But that need drives many to “risky and inappropriate behaviors,” such as driving while texting and checking e-mail during important events (20 percent at weddings, 30 percent at graduations and 15 percent at funerals).

“This reliance and addiction to off-hours e-mail underscores the important role mobile messaging has taken in the business workflow,” said Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research, in a statement. “As e-mail has become integrated into mission-critical business processes, employees are feeling extraordinary pressure to be constantly available.”

The report also noted that 79 percent of those surveyed said they have taken their work-related device with them on vacation, and more than one-third admit to hiding from friends and family in order to check e-mail on vacation. Nearly half of survey respondents admitted to traveling up to 10 miles just to check e-mail during a vacation.

The advent of mobile e-mail means users are more likely to find out about what the report calls “life changing” events via e-mail. For example, 45 percent of those surveyed said they’d received job offers via e-mail while 6 percent found out they’d lost their jobs the same way.

E-mail conveyed the death of a family member to 35 percent, the birth of a new family member to 70 percent, a request for divorce or breakup to 6 percent and a marriage proposal to 10 percent of those surveyed.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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