The hidden costs of emails: time, profit, and the environment!

Written by
Iryna Komazova
March 10, 2024
Time to rethink the impact of your email activity!
[Photo: stock image]

What harm can an email cause? It’s just a few words, really-really important words (as every sender thinks about their email) that need only a couple of minutes of a receiver’s attention. Surely this doesn’t influence the company’s profit! Neither does it influence the environment, since it’s just electronic!

However, everything is not so simple. Let’s look closely at each statement and find out how we can make our work communication more efficient and sustainable.

The endless flow of emails

The average employee of a middle-sized company receives 304 business emails weekly. This constant barrage of electronic communication, including spam and unnecessary, poorly written emails, can lead to frequent interruptions, breaking workflow and decreasing overall productivity.

Studies suggest that people usually check their email 36 times in an hour, which equates to spending about 28% of the workweek dealing with emails. In general, 16 minutes are required to refocus after handling an incoming email. Consequently, the constant need for attention to electronic communication can result in a loss of focus on critical tasks.

An email costs a penny

The financial side of email-related productivity loss is staggeringly high. According to research, the cost of such distractions can amount to thousands of dollars per employee each year. This includes both the direct time spent on emails and the subsequent time needed to refocus on primary tasks. Multiply this by the number of employees in a company, and the cumulative losses become a significant drain on business profit.

The environmental impact of electronic communication

We simply must address the environmental cost of emails in this article. On average, the carbon footprint of an email is equivalent to 0.3 g of CO2 emissions. The longer and ‘heavier’ the email is (i.e. it’s a longread, or has pictures and/or attachments), the more carbon emissions it is accountable for. The number can go up to 50 g of CO2 emissions per email. 

A typical business user creates 135 kg (298 lbs) CO2e from sending emails every year, which is the equivalent of driving 322 kms (200 miles) in a family car.

If every adult in the UK sent one less “thank you” email, it could save 16,433 tons of carbon a year – equivalent to taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road entirely.

It is estimated that emails sent globally can contribute to 150 m tons of CO2 emissions (2019 data), or about 0.3% of the world’s carbon footprint. Using this calculator, you can estimate how much CO2 emissions you will generate this year just by processing emails.

Making emails less 'evil'

To reduce the impact of these issues, companies are exploring various strategies to streamline email communication. Email management policies can include the following:

  • Sending only the most necessary information, skipping “thank you” and fewer irrelevant emails,
  • Avoiding sending large attachments and using links to a cloud instead,
  • Setting specific time slots for email responses,
  • Encouraging the use of collaborative platforms,
  • Promoting face-to-face communication for urgent matters,
  • Adopting artificial intelligence (AI) tools for email filtering and categorization,
  • Educating employees on efficient email usage and time management techniques.


While emails are still an irreplaceable tool in workplace communication, their overdependence on their use substantially affects both productivity and company finances.

By addressing the issue head-on and implementing efficient email management practices, companies can significantly reduce costs while simultaneously contributing to a more sustainable and nature-friendly work environment.

Sending and responding to emails can become one reason why a company loses not only efficiency but profit. Emails generate approximately 0.3% of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. How can you implement digital hygiene in your mailbox that adds efficiency and is sustainable?
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