Email rules, according to Pew Internet study

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A new report by the Pew Internet Project shows that email is still the killer app for work.

The study’s authors, Kristin Purcell and Lee Rainie, wrote:

Six in ten (61%) American workers who use the internet say email is “very important” for doing their job, and 54% say the same about the internet. Far fewer workers describe landline phones (35%) or cell phones and smartphones (24%) as “very important.” Just 4% say social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn are “very important” to their work.

The high importance of email in the workplace reported in the current survey is not surprising. As early as 2002, Pew Research Internet surveys showed that 61% of American workers were using email at work. In 2008, we reported that 62% of working American adults were “networked workers,” meaning they used the internet or email in the workplace.

Those workers in office-based jobs are three times more likely to say that email is “very important” (78 percent versus 25 percent) compared to those not working in offices.


What is somewhat surprising is the small number (4 percent) of workers that say that social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn are important to their work. The researchers apparently did not dig into the use of other social-collaboration tools, but 54 percent say the internet is very important.

One finding of interest is that many respondents work outside the workplace at least some of the time, and 13 percent do so everyday. Meanwhile, 41 percent never do their jobs outside the workplace.


The internet, email, and cell phones allow workers to work more hours, become more connected with people outside the company, and give more flexibility in work hours.


Many workers — 46 percent — report that their companies block access to certain websites. The same percentage say their companies have rules about what employees can say or post online. And those numbers have increased since earlier surveys in 2006 and 2009.


The key takeaways:

  • Landlines and email have not yet been edged out smartphones andinternet apps.
  • Employees are experiencing more-flexible work arrangements. This, along with email and smartphones, leads to them working longer hours.
  • Email is still the primary means of work communication, while social networks are marginal.