01/08/2012 11:30 PM AEST

Workers Spend One-Fourth Of Workday Reading, Responding To Email: Survey

In this Friday, June 8, 2012 photo, Dr. Natasha Burgert works with patients while using social media as part of her practice, in Kansas City, Mo. There's a stereotype that says doctors shun technology that might threaten patients' privacy and their own pocketbooks. But a new breed of physicians is texting health messages to patients, tracking disease trends on Twitter, identifying medical problems on Facebook pages and communicating with patients through email. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

You've got way too much mail.

Office workers spend an average of 2.6 hours per day reading and answering emails, according to a survey conducted by McKinsey Global Institute. That adds up to about 27 days per year.

The findings were based on a survey of "knowledge workers," which McKinsey defines as "managers, salespeople, scientists, and others whose jobs consist primarily of interactions—with other employees, customers, and suppliers—and complex decision making based on knowledge and judgement."

Employees spend about 28 percent of their day interacting with their email accounts, the most time of any daily activity at the workplace. Searching for and gathering information comes in at a distant second by taking up 1.76 hours a day, or 19 percent of the workday.

The McKinsey survey argues that the answer isn't to shut the the world out of the workplace and vice versa. Instead, companies should use social networking in the workplace as a means to decrease the use of email and boost collaboration and productivity.

The time taken up responding to email is just one of the many ways technology has changed the nature of the workplace. Smartphones and laptops have extended the work day to roughly 12 hours, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., because workers are constantly checking email from their home, according to the Daily Mail. But employees are also more likely to allow non-work activities, like chatting and surfing the web, seep into the work day.

The German government has aimed to solve this problem by requiring employers to provide employees with clear rules of what is and is not acceptable internet behavior at the workplace, the BBC reports. The government also restricts employers from contacting employees from the end of the work day to the start of work the next day.