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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.

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