Email Overload: Investigating Technology-fit Antecedents and Job-related Outcomes
Stich, J.-F. (2023) The Data Base for Advances in Information Systems
Email is the communication application most widely used in organizations. Its use in the workplace has increased fourfold since 2006. Yet, email is associated with a number of negative aspects, most prominently ‘email overload’, defined as an individual’s perception of being overwhelmed by emails that s/he considers too numerous to handle. Email overload is a theoretically interesting phenomenon because of its adverse organizational outcomes. Moreover, it continues to be vexing in practice because it has proved intractable to manage. We problematize the current understanding of email overload as being due to lack of understanding of its technology fit-related antecedents and job-related outcomes, and then investigate how email overload is influenced by a lack of fit between the communication applications that the organization provides to individuals and those that (1) they want, and that (2) are suitable for their tasks. We hypothesize that such lack of fit leads to email by default, defined as the perception of email being used improperly, when other communication applications would be better suited. Email by default is then hypothesized to lead to email overload. We further investigate job-related outcomes of email overload. To achieve this, we conducted a two-stage, multi-method empirical study in a large manufacturing organization in a sequential research design, where the first study (qualitative-interviews) informed the second (quantitative-survey). Our results support the hypothesized relationships. The paper theoretically broadens the scholarly discourse on email overload to include novel antecedents and outcomes in the ongoing quest to establish a more complete understanding of this phenomenon.