Americans obsess over e-mail? Ask a Microsoftie…

May 26, 2005

outlookOm Malik, a new add to my blogroll, comments about how Americans are obsessive about checking e-mail. Om, you ain’t seen nothing. If you poll Microsoft PMs, you’ll find:

  • 100% check email first thing in the morning
  • 98% check email in middle of the night
  • 99% check it right after dinner
  • 97% check e-mail right when they get home from work
  • 100% do so right before they go to bed

There’s about a +3% margin of error possible with those stats. 😉 MSFT PMs also typically have Windows Mobile devices, such as the Scoble Phone, which syncs down their e-mail 24/7.

There’s a huge e-mail culture there – it’s completely embedded into how things work up in Redmond. The environment was so e-mail centric that many of my old co-workers never used IM even though it would’ve been way more efficient.

I’m fascinated by how the different communication media people use affect the dynamic of the work environment.

  • At MSFT, it wasn’t atypical to have people isolated in their offices; pretty much their only contact with the team around them being through e-mail.
  • At Google, we were all crammed into cubicles and the natural mode would be a face to face discussion, usually with 2-4 people.
  • At Plaxo, we have an open work environment; no one really works in an office and we’ve taken down the cubicles. Everyone can see everyone else pretty much all the time. In this environment, when a discussion starts, any interested parties naturally join in. It’s not uncommon for someone to ask someone else a question and inadvertently start a huge involved discussion. We get many more viewpoints in the discussion and everyone stays up to date on what’s going on.

At Plaxo, people say they get buried under e-mails when they get maybe 50-75 a day. At MSFT, that’s approximately how much a typical PM gets in an hour 🙂

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No Responses Yet to “Americans obsess over e-mail? Ask a Microsoftie…”


  1. Stop exaggerating – I only get 50-75 during peak hours. From 8pm-8am I tend to only get 10 an hour.

    I’ve been in an open work environment… I worked on Wall Street for a few summers and winters. You’d always find people making personal calls in the bathrooms 😦

  2. markjen Says:

    Ah, you are right, there definitely is a distribution of the e-mail load that I didn’t really mention.

    Taking care of personal business during the business day is difficult with the open environment. Typically, you’ll have to find a quiet corner, or even step out of the office completely to take a personal phone call.

    There are pluses and minuses to personal offices vs. open work environments; sounds like a good topic to explore in another entry…

    But hey, you get to see our environment firsthand next week Dennis! 🙂

  3. tom Says:

    i have 4,300 unread messages in my inbox.


  4. […]

    As I was flying up to Seattle for Memorial Day weekend, I was thinking about my last post and wondering: since most of mainstream America is obsessed with e-mail now… I wonder if the sam […]


  5. […] on May 28th 2005 to Internet : Trackback

    Mark writes about Americans being obsessed by emails. I am a bit surprised that this is an issue at all. Email is so normal for me. W […]

  6. rose Says:

    working at ms has made me super efficient at the emails. I’ve got the whole system working…rules, colors, flags, folders, sorting, the works.

    tho, i would say that in my old team, we were definitely in the IM culture. I practically had my all 1:1s in the chat windows. the down side is that things are harder to save and sometimes you just press escape too quickly before you remember to save what you need.

    in my current team, it’s actually the open door policy. we’ve got project signoffs and discussions happening in the hallway, and since the entire team is just doors away, we’re pretty much conducting meetings right there and then.

    back to the emails. I’m ok with the email culture as long as it’s not gmail! 2249.99MB of junk mail and counting…

  7. rose Says:

    btw, for working at a company that values actual face time, you check email a little (times 20000) more than i do.


  8. […] nhet dra slutsatsen att för mycket e-post är kontraproduktivt. Läs Mark Jens postning här.

    Av Joacim Melin 5 Juni 2005 kl 21:14 i kategorin: Lä […]

  9. ikhovablovrmeenkaku Says:

    3729
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  10. Interesting post. Keep up the great work. Thanks again, Quinten

  11. Maliha Says:

    Everyone has to go here at least once.


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