Yes, US workers do still need their email

Very few of them think social media is an important tool for work

The end of email has been foretold many times, but despite these predictions of doom, U.S. workers can't seem to get rid of it.

About six in 10 Internet-using workers in the U.S. list email as "very important" to doing their jobs, topping the list of most important work tools, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

Email trumped the Internet as a whole, which 54 percent called very important, and ranked well above mobile or smartphones [24 percent] as well as social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, which only 4 percent of workers found important. Surprisingly, the use of landline phones outranked mobile phone usage: 35 percent of respondents marked landlines as very important.

Despite email users being subject to hack and phishing attacks as well as spam, it continues to be the main digital artery that workers believe is important to their jobs, Pew said. Since taking hold a generation ago, email has not loosened its grip on the American workplace, the research group said.

The analysis in the report released earlier this week is based on an online survey in September of 1,066 adult Internet users over 18. The respondents included 535 adults employed full-time or part-time, forming the base of the report.

Using the Internet does not lead to distractions in the workplace and does not effect productivity, respondents said. Just 7 percent feel their productivity has dropped because of the Internet, email and cell phones, while 46 percent felt more productive, despite critics worrying that digital tools can be a distraction, Pew said.

What's more, more than half of the workers said that Internet, email and cell phones expand the number of people outside of their company they communicate with. And almost 40 percent said the tools allow them more flexibility in the hours they work, while 35 percent said they also started working more hours due to the digital tools.

Meanwhile, employers are starting to change practices regarding employees' Internet usage. Just under half of those surveyed said their boss blocks access to some websites, and 46 percent said there are rules about what workers can say or post online. The latter figure more than doubled since Pew began asking about company rules in 2006.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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Loek Essers

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