Half of the average person’s work week, or 20 hours of their 40-hour week, is spent sending emails and going to meetings – and that jumps even higher when it comes to senior level management.

That’s according to VoloMetrix Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that has just filed a patent for its data analytics technology. While it’s not unusual for large companies to track employee performance based on sales, or to check how much inventory is available, what’s interesting about VoloMetrix is that it’s actually measuring employee productivity based on their email and calendar usage.

The argument is by cutting back on email and meeting time, employees can focus on what’s most important in driving the bottom line.

The approach is pretty unique, and it’s born out of VoloMetrix’s background as a management consulting company, says Chantrelle Nielsen, VoloMetrix’s head of customer solutions. She adds VoloMetrix has one of the largest datasets of employee behaviour, tracking the email inboxes and calendars of “two dozen” enterprise customers and “hundreds of thousands” of their employees.

(Image: VoloMetrix).
(Image: VoloMetrix).

“The largest investment of any company is in its human capital. Most executives are trying to make decisions on how people spend their time, but we have very little data on that,” Nielsen says, adding the approach is kind of like what manufacturing companies do, when they keep a foreman on a production floor measuring the speed of an assembly line with a stopwatch.

For example, VoloMetrix tracks factors like how long salespeople might be meeting with the IT department, or with the marketing department. The company doesn’t pinpoint what an individual salesperson might be doing, but it collects metadata on things like email subject lines, calendar invites for meetings, and so on.

Then it pulls together that information into dashboards showing metrics like the Organizational Load Index, calculated as the total amount of work time an employee uses up with emails and meetings. There are also other metrics like time fragmentation, measured as the number of two-hour blocks where employees don’t have any meetings, giving them more time to return to work and to focus on the tasks at hand.

Once senior management and executives get this kind of insight, they can start setting policies encouraging different departments to change their work flow. Individual employees also receive their own confidential reports, showing them how they stack up against other employees in their role – for example, a marketing associate might find he or she sends 1,400 emails a month, compared to someone else who sends just 1,000 a month.

The system can also track other sources of data, like phone calls, but email and calendar are the two primary sources. Data can be kept in the cloud, but there’s also the option to store employee data on-premises, Nielsen says.

However, VoloMetrix has built some privacy settings into its system. For example, personal calendar events, like dentist appointments, are screened out of the system using algorithms. The metadata collected is also anonymized, meaning managers can see trends among employee behaviour, but not which employee is doing what.

While it might sound restrictive to dictate how employees should manage their time, Nielsen says tracking activity is actually a better way of cutting back on bureaucratic processes and red tape.

“It’s very hard to quantify [bureaucracy]. At best, you end up micromanaging other people’s vision and their thought processes,” Nielsen says, adding the employees at VoloMetrix also use this system. “This isn’t new information, but it’s a new implementation. People will change their behaviour accordingly.”

Right now, VoloMetrix doesn’t have any hard numbers from its customers that point to gains in revenue, but Nielsen says it should have some figures once they’ve been tracking customers for a full year.

Pricing for the VoloMetrix solution is set at about $2 per mailbox tracked per month.

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