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Response-Time Expectations in the Internet Age: How Long is Too Long?

Response Time VoicemailWith technology integrated into virtually every aspect of our lives, communication has become easier than ever before. Ceaseless access to our computers and smart phones make it possible to access our email, voicemail, and text messages from anywhere, every second of the day. Of course, this presents a double-edged sword. As communication can occur so immediately, response-time expectations have shortened accordingly – and some of us risk getting cut should our responses take too long.

Most of you are probably nodding your heads, thinking about that time when your boss reprimanded you for not answering an email all weekend, or worse, when your girlfriend gave you the silent treatment for taking ten minutes to answer a text (Ten. Whole. Minutes!). You’re not trying to insult anyone, but answering every message as soon as it comes in seems pretty much impossible. Isn’t that how everyone sees it?

Here at HTC, we’ve debated how long is too long in different situations. In order to get to the bottom of it, we decided to survey fellow colleagues, professionals and friends. The purpose of the survey was to investigate whether response-time expectations are dependant on the following:

–       The relationship between the sender and recipient

–       The time the message is sent (work hours vs. non-work hours)

–       The medium of the message (text, email, voice)

We received an impressive 88 responses to the survey within one week, hinting at how central a topic this has become in today’s age of technology. The results of our survey showed us that response time expectations change according to all of the variables in question.

Below are the most popular answers:

During work hours, how quickly do you expect to receive a response to your message from the following recipients?

Text Message
Client 1 hour
Boss Equally split between 15 minutes and 1 hour
Colleague: 15 minutes
Family Member 1 hour
Friend 1 hour
Romantic Partner 5 minutes

 

Email  
Client 4 hours
Boss 1 hour
Colleague: 1 hour
Family Member Equally split between 1 hour and 4 hours
Friend 24 hours
Romantic Partner 4 hours

 

Voicemail  
Client 4 hours
Boss 1 hour
Colleague: 1 hour
Family Member 1 hour
Friend 4 hours
Romantic Partner 1 hour

 

During non-work hours, how quickly do you expect to receive a response to your message from the following recipients?

Text Message  
Client 24 hours
Boss 24 hours
Colleague: 24 hours
Family Member 5 minutes
Friend Equally split between 5 and 15 minutes
Romantic Partner 5 minutes

 

Email  
Client 24 hours
Boss 24 hours
Colleague: 24 hours
Family Member 24 hours
Friend 24 hours
Romantic Partner 1 hour

 

Voicemail  
Client 24 hours
Boss 24 hours
Colleague: 24 hours
Family Member 24 hours
Friend 4 hours
Romantic Partner 1 hour

 

Colleagues Take the Hot Seat at Work

Unsurprisingly, colleagues were put on the hot seat for emails during work hours. Response Time EmailHowever, you may be surprised at just how scalding the seat really is.While the most popular response was 1 hour (31%), 12.5% of respondents expect their colleagues to answer an email in 5 minutes. 18% gave them 15 minutes, 26% said 4 hours, and a mere 10% gave anywhere longer.

Never Neglect the Text

While many may assume that phones should be kept off during work hours, especially for the purpose of text messaging, this is apparently not the case, according to our results. The survey results show that, overall, people expected much faster responses for text messages than for both voicemail and email. With the exception of romantic partners, the expected response-time for text messages is 1 hour during work hours. During non-work hours, this time shortens to 5 minutes for non-work contacts. Work contacts are all given 24 hours to respond to texts while not at work.

Romantic Partners are On-Call 24-7

Perhaps the most shocking was the response time expectations for romantic partners.Response Time TextWhile we would have assumed that work-related messages would take precedence during work hours, romantic partners seem to have the biggest time crunch regardless of time-of-day. Remarkably, the most popular expected response-time to text messages was exactly the same for work hours and non-work hours: an overwhelming 39% believed that 5 minutes was the magic number. Amazingly, during work hours, only 15% of people think it’s acceptable for a text response from their partner to take more than an hour. (Emails and voicemails did not garner the same short expectation times, with a popular answer of 4 hours and 1 hour respectively.)

 
The results of our survey confirmed that our access to technology on a consistent basis has, as a whole, shortened our response-time expectations. It is interesting to note that in no case did more than one person find it acceptable to have any type of message left unanswered for 48 hours. It seems that regardless of the time of day, or the person receiving the message, it is simply assumed that we are instantly receiving the message and that we will instantly respond.

We’d love to know what you think about these results and how response-time expectations affect your daily life. Do you feel pressure to respond to messages? How do you handle these expectations at work and at home? Let us know!

 If you’d like to see all of the results to our survey, please download the PDF below.

HTC_Response_Time_Protocols_Survey_Results

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Comments

  1. Personally, I can’t stand texting. People expect an answer NOW and often will continue to text multiple times a day until they get an answer. I feel texting is incredibly disruptive to my day. I will respond to all texts within 24 hours. However, often I miss texts because it’s buzzing all the time so I miss some. If that’s the case, then when someone doesn’t respond to a text and it’s ‘urgent’… call them. It’s that simple. If it’s important to you, call if you don’t receive a text response within 24 hours.

  2. I was doing some research on this topic or what I considered “technology etiquette”. I have almost a militant or very strict ideologies on this subject.

    Think about it. If someone didn’t return a phone call to their supervisor or boss or in my past, my senior sergeant or commander, our ass would be grass.

    If you knew that your lack of timeliness would result in your butt being FIRED like on the show “The Apprentice”, you would think twice in being lacidasical in responding to that email, phone call, or text.

    It really comes down to VALUE or how you CARE about that person in your life.

    To me, if someone is your friend, they would easily get back to you within minutes after hours, if you email or text during reasonable hours, before 9pm.

    If you are at work, then usually email is the preferred method without causing any problems, like texting all the time does.

    When people don’t return phone calls, emails, or texts and make excuses, it’s just like saying “I don’t give a shit” and you are NOT IMPORTANT to me.

    If someone pays your salary or someone is in charge of you, you better believe your butt is contacting them right away.

    I remember years ago on a reality show “Working for Diddy”, the rapper P. Diddy said to the contestants you better answer that phone o the first ring or you are telling me you don’t care and you don’t want to work for me.

    In this day and age, we leave our house with these things on a consistent basis:

    1. House and car keys
    2. Our wallet or purse with our ID
    3. Our cell phone or iPhone
    4. Laptop, if we care it everywhere.

    So, based on that, I would 90 percent of the world, doesn’t go anywhere without their cell phone or iPHone…..it just doesn’t happen, unless you live in a cave or don’t have technology and in that case, you wait until you get home to talk on the phone and you never respond to emails, except for every few days when you are back to work or you use the library.

    At the end of the day, it’s just RUDE and SELFISH of people not to respond to any form of communication within a 24hr period, depending on if it’s work, personal, etc…. the timeliness is based on WHAT IT IMPORTANTand WHAT YOU VALUE IN YOUR LIFE.

    If you don’t value friends, then they are probably not real friends, just acquaintances.

  3. I usually respond to a text 3-5 days. But even then, I usually just call.

  4. “Modern technology response time” seems to be very much a ‘topic du jour’. I cannot STAND texting, as I frequently do not hear the alert, and I have long fingers so I am constantly mistyping, etc – and I also have a a problem with ‘friends’ (or even my family members – just teeling my truth) who think 2-word replies in either text or email are somehow “appropriate” unless the topic/issue is incredibly simple and requires a yes/no answer, etc. My general rule of thumb is to return all texts and emails within 24 hours, and quite frankly, people who do not (especially fellow unemployed people like myself or my rich housewife girlfriends) and are “too busy” – that’s BS in my humble opinion. I’m only 43, but was not “born with a cell phone in my hand,” feel it’s extremely rude (verging on pathetic) when I see (mostly young) people texting the entire time they are dining out (most be some greeeeeaaaatttt relationship going on – as bad as old people who sit in restaurants and are both reading the newspaper – it’s downright sad). As author of “Emotional Intelligence” Daniel Coleman said, the average American spends 3 hours per day on a mobile device, which is approximately 40 says per year, and I agree with him that we are “all seduced/addicted to technology” and even psychotherapists have said that it is destroying intimate relationships – esp. with young people and all the texting, etc. as this often leads to extreme miscommunication, confusion, and frustration – and….couple’s therapy (on the couch, thank you…). Call me old fashioned, but my mother would have put a gun to my head if I did not send thank you notes, holiday cards, etc (via postal mail if anyone’s heard of it) b/c she taught me actual *manners* which apparently do not exist anymore – but in her memory, I will continue to be a polite, respectful person and communicate in a timely fashion as that is what is *right*, and I know it.

  5. I had heart surgery last March and noticed the people i called friends would take longer and longer to respond to me. I give it 5 days to return a text and then if there is no legit reason for taking that long and this isnt the first time then bye bue Felicia. Dont want or need fairweather friends

  6. I think this article was spot on. Some of the times are a little short. Like people being off work, especially a romantic partner or someone you are trying to get to know. 20-30 mins is OK. If you are going to disappear longer than that, at least have the courtesy to let the person know you are gonna be tied up with something for a while but you will get back to them asap. I think with the older millennial group (those of us in our late 20s and early. 30s.) We do realize that a lot of us have children, have families, have a lot going on besides work and playing video games all night. So it isn’t as big of a deal. My best friend and I have extremely busy lives, so we try to designate specific times to talk and we don’t get upset when the other doesn’t text back immediately. But the friendship has been established well over 20 years, so no biggie. I truly think it’s more of an issue with someone you like and really want to talk to, or when you are trying to get something figured out. I am more of a face to face person, technology has made this generation very soft and most of us don’t want to look someone in the face, it’s easier to say what is needed behind a screen, or just flat out hide behind our phones to avoid conflict all together. If you don’t see the person on a regular basis and don’t want to talk to them, you can just block them from contacting you, through text/phone calls and on social media. Technology has really put a damper on social skills. I think we all know what is acceptable, but because, as the article pointed out, pretty much everyone has their phone on them at all times and checks it multiple times a day. So saying you were “busy” for 6 hours is bull, unless you are at work and have a very demanding job. Everyone I know checks their phone at least 4-5 times an hour, even those who aren’t on social media.

  7. LisaNicoleHockenhullGossett says:

    I’m only 21 years old (on Nov. 4th) & people have told me they are shocked at how long it takes me to reply. They say it’s because I’m young and they expect people who are older to maybe take “a little” longer but “not someone so young, around my age!”. I’m super bad at getting back to people. It’s nothing personal. I just don’t revolve my life around my phone. I have more important things to worry about. I don’t really text often. & I don’t have a Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. No social media. I deleted it all a while back. & I have been so much happier without all that stress in my life. I finally feel FREE. It’s actually really nice. I agree social media has many benefits such as being able to connect with loved ones around the world and such. But overall I just think it has way more negatives than it does positives, and I just wanna stay away from the negativity as much as I can. Radiate positive vibes. ☮✌❤😊

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