Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the aristocratic chairman of Ferrari, has a thing about emails. Specifically those infernal, time-wasting, productivity sapping group emails that his employees plague each other with. So he’s banned them. And the 3,000 staff at the firm’s Maranello plant have been enjoined to “talk to each other more and write less”. The company server will only now allow a group email to three inhouse recipients.

“The injudicious sending of emails with dozens of recipients often on subjects with no relevance to most of the latter,” a statement (emailed) said, “is one of the main causes of time wastage and inefficiency in the average working day in business.” To which undoubtedly most employees will cheer to the echo.

But Signor Cordero di Montezemolo is only scratching at the surface of the problem. Others have begun to ask if the email, which has taken over so many lives, is a tool or a shackle.

A recent Harvard Business Review survey of 2,600 workers who use email daily in the US, UK, and South Africa found that on average they each receive some 11,680 emails a year, and that dealing with them – reading, writing archiving and searching – involves half their working day. Three-quarters are junk, while only two in five of those that make it through spam filters are described by those surveyed as “essential or critical”.

The loss of productivity involved in the managing of duplicated and unnecessary emails is huge, not to mention the five hours a week which US surveys suggest employees spend at work surfing non-work-related sites or responding to personal email.

One UK firm Halton Housing Trust has announced that by 2014 it will do away with all internal email for its 280 staff who will rely instead on face to face contact, social networking and texting. It cites research by Atos Origin showing that its average employee spends 40 per cent of his working week dealing with internal emails which add no value to the business.

Time to get off the email treadmill. Send.