Surprise! Millennial office workers love email

If you thought text-obsessed, social-media-loving youngsters would lead us away from email, think again

Surprise! Millennial office workers love email

Millennials hate email, and they will finally kill this business scourge -- or so you would think from popular discussions on the topic. But do a little research, and you discover that millennials not only don't hate email, they use it more than any other age group.

Yes, the text-obsessed and social-media-loving millennials are addicted to email, a recent survey of 1,004 mobile-using American office workers by Adobe Systems has found. Millennials (born between 1981 and 2001) check their email more often than any other group -- even more than Gen X (born between 1961 and 1981) and baby boomers (born between 1947 and 1961) for whom email is the mainstay business communication method.

Well, the Adobe survey doesn't use the typical age range for millennials; instead it looks at ages 25 through 34, what demographers call the early millennials. Still, it's an interesting result. (Adobe made that split that because younger millennials are so new in the workplace that they're unlikely to have fully formed their work behaviors.)

The reason of course is obvious: Email is how business gets done and documented in white-collar office jobs, and early millennials work in that world. Of course they use email. 

How they use it differs a little from how older workers do: They use more emojis as in their text messages, and they expect the same kind of rapid exchanges they get when texting. "It doesn’t feel like the email boomers may be used to," says Ben Tepfer, product marketing manager for Adobe's Connect messaging platform.

To millennials, email is simply another channel for the obsessive level of connectedness of the millennial generation.

According to the survey, 48 percent of early millennials check work email when outside of the office at least hourly, versus 40 percent of baby boomers and Gen X. But their email obsession isn't limited to work; they're even worse in terms of checking personal email when at their desk: 61 percent of early millennials do that at least hourly, versus 40 percent of Gen X and baby boomers.

Tepfer sees that frequent email checking by millennials as no surprise. Millennials tend to use emails like texting -- short, informal messages to get things done or monitor status when you've got a minute while waiting for a meeting to start or the elevator to arrive -- and they tend to check email from a smartphone, as they do for texting. "We use it like we use texts," he says.

Tepfer also isn't surprised that email is a popular medium for millennials' personal communications. Email is simply better at some sort of communications than texting; one example is planning a get-together, where email's multiple-addressee capabilities really help. Plus, email is universal, so participation is not limited to people who use the same messaging app you do, he notes. Finally, even though millennials expect faster email response times than Gen X and baby boomers, they share the notion that email communications are asynchronous -- that you respond when you are free to do so."It doesn't have the urgent status that sometimes messages do."

If there's any consolation for the email-obsessed, it's that late millennials (ages 18 to 24) already in the white-collar workforce aren't email-obsessed (yet): 28 percent check work email outside of work at least hourly, and 42 percent check personal email while at work at least hourly.

Then again, they comprised only 9 percent of the respondents, or about 91 people. I have a funny feeling that when this cohort hits their mid-20s and truly get ensconced in work, their email-usage numbers will rise significantly.

So, if you hate email and were hoping the millennials would kill it, sorry. They're making its use even more urgent. 

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.