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When Can I Expect an Email Response?

A Study of Rhythms in Email Usage

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Joshua R. Tyler (HP Labs) and John C. Tang (Sun Labs)


A study of email responsiveness was conducted to understand how the timing of responding to email messages conveys useful information. Interviews and observations explored users' perceptions of how they responded to email and formed expectations of others' responses to them. We identified ways in which users maintain and cultivate a responsiveness image for projecting expectations about their email response. We also discuss other contextual cues for responsiveness, including using tools such as the calendar and phone, accounting for the amount of work time overlap available, and establishing a pacing between email correspondents. These cues help users develop a sense of when to expect a response and when breakdown has occurred requiring further action.

Full paper: PDF (draft)

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