DETROIT (WWJ) – In a world of always-on connectivity, there’s a temptation for people to check their email all the time.

In the third annual Osterman Research Survey, researchers found an increasingly mobile workforce and continued reliance on email connectivity. The results were compiled from a survey conducted with roughly 213 respondents, half of whom were IT professionals.

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Among the interesting findings: People are finding it necessary to always be connected to their work and personal email, even interrupting meals and daily activities to check email, and workers are willing to drive great distances for connectivity.

One encouraging finding from the survey is that driving while texting is sharply declining, likely as a result of increased legislation.

The survey found that RIM BlackBerry users decreased from 53 percent of mobile device users in 2009 to 36 percent in 2011. Google Android and Apple iPhone users increased to 20 percent and 21 percent of users, respectively. Many users are also using tablets to access email.

Eighty-three percent of users admitted to checking email after work using a smartphone or mobile device. While the number of users who access business email during time off decreased slightly (10 percent), many users continue to take work with them wherever they go.

More than half of the respondents brought a work-related device with them on vacation (66 percent), and a similar percentage (68 percent) admitted to driving more than 10 miles to access email. This could demonstrate that the tough global economy requires near-constant productivity, or it could indicate an addiction to email and multitasking—anytime, anywhere.

The Osterman study also focused on how business environments are affected by email connectivity issues.

The research found that less than half of respondents (43 percent) would be adversely affected by one hour of email downtime. This is perhaps a reflection of the diverse number of options available today for staying connected.

For example, the expanding reach of cloud computing services and technologies such as UC (Unified Communications) means that more options for staying connected to email are available to users. In turn, IT professionals surveyed reported that 44 percent of users would be using cloud-based applications and storage within two years.

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In regards to mobile devices, 42 percent of respondents indicated that they would make it through their normal daily routine if they had left their email device at home.

However, the number of users who would return home to retrieve a forgotten email device increased from 19 percent in 2009 to 25 percent in 2011, an indication of how attached people have become to devices such as BlackBerrys, iPhones/iPads, and other types of smartphones or tablets. In fact, almost a third of users (31 percent) report that they exclusively use their mobile device for business processes such as reading and responding to emails.

When it comes to workflow communications, 81 percent of respondents believe that their senior manager’s ability to make mission-critical decisions would be affected by impaired access to email. And 82 percent believe there would be serious repercussions if an email server outage lasted an entire day.

It seems stricter laws about driving while texting and increased accident awareness are making an impact. The survey found that less than half of respondents (49 percent) admitted to driving while texting. This is down significantly from 76 percent in the previous survey.

Dinner with friends or family still represents a prime time for users to find out who’s contacted them: More than 50 percent of users reported sending emails during a meal.

People also like to multitask on their devices while shopping, with nearly 65 percent of users admitting to emailing while in the grocery line.

There are some things that are still sacred, though. The number of users who admitted to emailing during a romantic moment has decreased from 11 percent in 2009 to a mere 2 percent in 2011.

Many survey respondents also now believe that certain events are better done in person: divorce requests and breakups happened for only 1 percent of users via email, down from 6 percent in 2009.

However, it’s still difficult to say how mobile email has evolved. Was it mostly work-related and gradually turned personal, or has it always been a mixture of both?

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The 2011 statistics show a gradual increase in the number of times (1-50) that employees check email after work and on weekends. Couple this with personal emails and it’s not hard to imagine how often we are sending and receiving mail.