Whoa, Bessie: The Staggering Cost of Business Email [infographic]

Written by Gina Smith

Businesses waste trillions of dollars annually on email — paying employees to waste time with dumb, inefficient email. The Staggering Cost of Business Email infographic.

aNewDomain.net — Paper waste is terrible in U.S. and global business and has been for decades. But consider the staggering cost of business email, entreats Contatta, which sent us the below infographic pointing out that in North America, you’ve got business paying employees pretty much just to write, read and sort email. The cost, Contatta shows, is about $2 trillion annually.

To put that in perspective. Contatta rep Brenda Christensen says:

Collectively, employees spend nearly 75 billion hours in email, costing businesses nearly $2 trillion in salaries — that’s 14 times the combined wealth of Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett …”

The data in the Contatta infographic comes via the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the Radicati Group and the McKinsey Global Institute. It shows just how crazy inefficient email use has become in business. According to the data, employees at in North American business concerns spend about 13 hours a week — or 637 hours a year — just dealing with the reading and replying and forwarding of email.

And even though the median professional wage per employee is about $23 an hour, those results show that businesses are paying more than $15,000 U.S. per employee — just to keep up their ineffective, ineffectual email addiction habit. Call it email jail.

Thanks to Brenda Christensen for turning us onto her firm’s The Staggering Cost of Business Email infographic, below. It’s true that Contatta, a company in the business of email management, has a stake in the game of making folks realize email pain. But that doesn’t make the data any less jaw-dropping.

Contatta takes a look at the real cost of email for business
Infographic credit: Contatta

For aNewDomain.net, I’m Gina Smith.

Gina Smith is the New York Times best-selling author of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s memoir, iWoz Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Doing It (W.W. Norton, 2005/2007/2012). With John C. Dvorak and Jerry Pournelle, she is the editorial director at aNewDomain.net. Email her at gina@aNewDomain.net, check out her Google + stream here or follow her @ginasmith888.


  • What would be a better way to communicate? Maybe this is a measure of how useful e-mail is.

  • Sometimes it is better just to lean over and ask someone a question.I think that’s the point here — that people are literally emailing people in the office. When they could say, hey, Sue, are you going to make the lunch meeting tomorrow? Yes? Great!

  • Thanks for running this, Gina and couldn’t agree more – also, Contatta has workrooms ala “Facebook” that allow internal employees to interact via discussion threads, further reducing “inbox noise” <— shameless plug. ;)