Most Emails Answered in Just Two Minutes, Study Finds

PHOTO: The average response time for an email is 47 minutes, a new Yahoo Lab study found.Getty Images
The average response time for an email is 47 minutes, a new Yahoo Lab study found.

With more than 100 billion emails sent daily, researchers from Yahoo Labs in California and Spain decided to investigate how we actually use one of the oldest forms of communication on the web.

The researchers dissected the email habits of 2 million users who exchanged 16 billion emails over the course of several months. As one of the largest ever studies conducted on email usage, it revealed some surprising (and some expected) results.

Nearly 90 percent of users replied to their emails within a day, with about half responding in around 47 minutes. The most frequently occurring reply time was just two minutes.

Most email replies were very short: between 5 and 43 words. Just 30 percent of emails went on for 100 words or more.

As email exchanges progressed, replies came faster although many emailers lost steam by the last exchange, possibly because there was nothing left to say. Email length also grew as the conversation progressed. But at the end, the last reply was very short.

Email sent on the weekend or overnight got slower and shorter replies. No shocker. But emails sent first thing in the morning were rewarded with faster and longer replies, researchers found.

Teens and youngsters answered their emails faster than any other group -- taking just 13 minutes on average to fire off a response of about 17 words. More mature users (those over 51 years of age) took an average of 47 minutes and 40 words before pressing send on their replies.

Men jump on their emails slightly faster than women, taking 24 minutes to respond compared to 28 minutes. Both sent an average of about 30 words per email.

People replied from their phones faster than from their tablets (28 minutes compared to 57 minutes.) Email responses from tablets faster were than on desktops which took an average of 62 minutes. Average number of words per email was 20, 27 and 60 respectively.

Email attachments really slowed things down with users taking nearly an hour to respond to any missive that featured a paperclip icon.

As the number of emails ballooned, users replied to fewer of them and gave shorter replies. People who were bombarded with 100 emails or more per day only bothered answering about 5 percent of them, compared to a 25 percent average email response rate for people who had smaller in-boxes to manage.

Users who were overwhelmed with incoming emails actually increased their email activity as the emails piled up but they couldn’t keep pace with the growing email overload. However, young emailers (25 and under) were better at handling the email avalanche. The more emails they got the faster they replied and the shorter messages they sent.