Study outlines the cost of internal spam

An upcoming study suggests that getting rid of the gossip, jokes and other unproductive e-mail from colleagues can save up to 30 percent of the time an employee spends reading e-mail.

While both the government and Internet service providers (ISPs) are concerned about incoming spam, the report by research firm Gartner Inc. suggests that companies should first look in their own back yards.

"If a company rids itself of occupational spam, they'll have a 30 percent savings in time that is usually lost in handling unproductive e-mail," said Neil MacDonald, research director at the Stamford, Conn., based firm and the author of the study, which is expected to be published within the next few weeks. "Managers should set the tone for e-mail usage and train employees to use e-mail more efficiently.

"This is internal e-mail from colleagues, or virus hoaxes. Jokes," he said, "It's nonproductive, it wastes your time and it comes disguised as regular e-mail. It comes from your colleagues. And, you can't tell until you open it that 'Holy Cow, it's a waste of my time.' " By MacDonald's estimate, employees spend an average of 49 minutes per day replying to e-mail, while 24 percent spend more than an hour a day checking their messages. Meanwhile, just 27 percent of the e-mail received required immediate attention.

"You're being killed by friendly fire. It's like carbon monoxide. It's colorless, odorless," he said.

MacDonald suggested limiting the scope of distribution lists, as well as installing internal spam filters.

"Chat rooms, bulletin boards and even instant messaging are more efficient than e-mail for remote team collaboration," he said.

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