E-mail usage practices in organizational context: A study with Portuguese workers
messages in the "Inbox", which confirms the conclusion that respondents have some difficulty classifying messages and / or store them in the right folders. Time spent with e-mail can influence either positively or negatively the organization’s results. On the one hand, e-mail decreases the time required for information flow; on the other hand, e-mail also increases the volume of available information that has to be considered by the organization’s employees. In our study most respondents declared to spend only about 15 minutes a day dealing with e-mail. This fact, coupled with the circumstance that only a small percentage of respondents spends more than an hour a day handling e-mail, seems to indicate that, in most cases, the time used with e-mail does not constitute a threat to the completion of other work tasks. This conclusion is corroborated by the evidence that the majority of respondents declare not to interrupt other activities to deal with new incoming messages, and check the e-mail only 1 to 6 times a day. In what regards sending and receiving messages containing confidential information or legal or contractual implications, most respondents demonstrate behaviors considered as the most suitable: they do not automatically redirect chain email messages, do not send e-mail messages containing sensitive or confidential information; and do not forward philanthropic request messages. However, most admit that sometimes they forward messages containing jokes, images, video or graphical presentations of varied content, to colleagues or friends, and most admit that they disclose their work e-mail address for private purposes and that they exchange e-mail messages containing private issues. To know e-mail users´ behavior is important both to achieve excellent results in organizations (as stated by Weber, 2004), and to identify external threats. It is therefore crucial that all parties involved, organizations and employees alike, are aware of the risks they face when using this communication tool. The appropriate e-mail usage practices should be explicitly defined, otherwise the organization´s results might be negatively and definitively affected. The results of this study indicate – in line with the conclusions of Fallows (2002) – that despite the management and use of e-mail in the work context do not seem to constitute a threat to the productivity, security and privacy of organizations, in most cases there is room for improvement and for actions that might enhance the usefulness of this tool. Specifically, most users have some difficulty organizing the information received through this medium and a significant proportion of them still has behaviors that may put at risk the organization’s safety and privacy. These problems must be taken into account by organizations because without any intervention and with the anticipated increase in the use of e-mail in work contexts, they can become a real threat for many organizations. It is noteworthy that the population studied in the present study is represented by a non-probabilistic sample and, therefore, the conclusions drawn should be interpreted with some care and restrictions. Future research should try to identify the determinants of appropriate behaviors in what concerns the use and management of e-mail in the work context. For organizations to be able to define actions to improve the use of e-mail by their employees is important to understand what characteristics and attitudes of employees enhance the suitable use of this communication tool.
JISTEM, Brazil Vol. 10, No.1, Jan/Apr 2013, pp. 05-20