Every time you let your email interrupt your productive work, it takes you an average of 4 minutes to get back on track. If in one day you let 15 emails derail you, you’ve just lost an hour of billable, productive time.
Multiply that by every employee every day and you can see how office-wide unproductive email use can be an enormous drain on your profits.
Have you ever stopped to examine how do your employees use their email? How do they manage it, send it, and save it? The habits they adopt, both good and bad, can be contagious. Since email touches all of us several times a day, an office email culture evolves quickly.
Here is an example. A boss calls a meeting with 3 of his department managers. He sends an urgent email, needing a response within 15 minutes. One manager, who is working on an important project, does not have his email on, misses the request, and angers his boss.
This manager has just now learned that he cannot turn off his email, ever. But it doesn’t stop there; it rolls down the corporate ladder. All three managers now have “permission” to use email as an URGENT delivery system. They use it in their departments, and very quickly, the entire organization is infected. No one can turn off his or her email for fear of missing something vital. Employees become slaves to the “ding” and stop productive work anytime an email comes in.
This is just one example of email mis-use that plagues businesses. Think of the practices of copying everyone under the sun, just so you don’t miss someone. Or how about using email as a chat room with multiple recipients to resolve dilemmas? Or the slippery slope of using email to critique someone’s performance? One person does it, others do it. Culture is changed.
There are, however, certain practices you can instill into your employees to create a positive email culture. It requires strong leadership and change management efforts, but by following these methods, you and your employees will be able to reclaim more time, and improve your bottom line:
- NEVER use email as an urgent delivery system. If the matter is urgent, pick up the phone or walk down the hall.
- Have everyone turn off “Automatic Send/Receive” and set “Receive intervals” to a minimum of 90 minutes. If someone is expecting an email, he or she can always hit receive manually.
- Move everything OUT OF your inbox. Your employees can manage their work better by putting emails in appropriate folders for easy reference later.
- Make Subject Lines be VERY specific. By including details in subject lines, you will help others sort and prioritize their work.
- Copy only the people who REALLY need to receive the email. Each superfluous cc will have to open and read the email, adding unnecessary tasks to their already full days.
For more best practices, or information about changing your office’s email culture, check out our eBook ”Reclaim Workplace Productivity; Add Big Bucks to Your Bottom Line.
Here are some of the most common email messaging mistakes, and how to avoid them. Some of the ways to avoid them are pretty obvious, otherwise, I’ve included suggestions on how to avoid them:
- Hitting the send button before the message is complete. Proofread before sending.
- Hitting the send button without attaching the referenced attachments. Proofread before sending.
- Copying too many extraneous people on a message. Send to ONLY those who really need to see the message.
- Having vague or general subject lines; the more specific the better. VERY specific is the best practice.
- Trying to have a discussion by e-mail with several people. If you need to have a discussion call a meeting, teleconference, or set up a chat room for everyone to participate.
- Poor grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Proofread before sending. Oh, and don’t forget spell check!
- Writing an e-mail message when you are emotional or angry. Don’t
- Crafting an e-mail message in the middle of the night, when you are not on all cylinders. It is much better to save it, and review it by the light of day before hitting the send button
Interestingly, most of these mistakes can be avoided by an added step of proofreading, and slowing down just a bit.
What do you think?
If you think there are no consequences of writing a ‘bad’ or ineffective email, think again…
I can think of several… Among the consequences of writing a “bad” or ineffective e-mail are:
- Productivity sapper: Multiple e-mails going back and forth, creating more work for not only others, but yourself, hence a productivity drain.
- Poor impressions: Poorly worded or crafted e-mail messages may cause others to judge your leadership or communication abilities.
- Lack of Control: Because e-mail messages are a permanent written record of your communication, once the e-mail is sent, you can no longer control who sees that message.
- Falling into the wrong hands: If the message is inappropriate or improper or just stupid, once it gets into the wrong hands there can be further complications.
- Career limiting: An accusatory or nasty e-mail can be career limiting, once again due to the fact that it is a written record and can fly through cyberspace.
Have any others? Please share!
There are alot of “never do’s” when it come to email, but here are my top five:
- Never throw anyone under the bus by e-mail, that is… don’t put criticisms in writing.
- Never try to provide helpful constructive feedback by e-mail — you can guarantee that it will be misinterpreted.
- Never use profanity, ethnic barbs, or sexist verbiage
- Never criticize the boss or the company by e-mail, even to your best friend — you never know where it could end up
- Never violate company policy regarding the use of e-mail. If policy states that you should not use company e-mail for personal use, don’t.
For other best practices, you might want to check out our prior post, Thirty Quick Email Etiquette Tips
Any other “nevers?” Please share!
I get this question alot… and frankly it baffles me that people even ask it.
The answer is:
It is extremely important that your e-mail correspondence at work is both professional and effective; frankly if those messages are not, it could be a career limiting behavior.
Managers and coworkers draw conclusions about your professionalism every time anything you do “touches” them, and e-mail provides more touches in a day than telephone or in person discussions. To use poor grammar, to ramble, to misspell, etc. provides a written documentation of your less than professional way of communicating. And even more, it is permanent!
Additionally, if people don’t like the way you communicate, you may lose credibility with those people who can impact your department’s or business’s success, thereby inhibiting your own success.
Best practice: proofread, proofread proofread. Then read it again before you send it. One last time!
Has business communication evolved to a more social activity? Is email headed down the same path as the hand-written letter? Is email dying? I say NO.
Recently, a Computerworld editorial piece suggested it might be time to wave goodbye to email as the core business and personal communication. To that writer, email’s central role in our daily lives has been pushed aside by the rapid growth of social networking services like Facebook and Twitter and by the increased use of collaboration tools like Microsoft SharePoint.
You can stop mourning because email isn’t going anywhere. Email will remain a primary communication tool in offices across the world, despite the increased integration between it and social media platforms.
With more people joining social networks (Facebook just hit the 600 million mark), online communities are used for personal communications and relationships more and more. The ease of posting a comment on a wall or discussion group keeps people in touch with their friends and networks and adds to the pleasure of their lives. Does this toll the death knell for email? Definitely not. In fact, the entry of social media as a personal communication medium may take some of the pressure off of business email, allowing it to be used in the way it works best – to communicate information and transact business swiftly, efficiently, and inexpensively.
Email is not going away.
Business relies on it, and business sure isn’t going away. The velocity of business transactions continues to soar. The speed of communication has advanced from days to hours to minutes to seconds. The ability to transmit documents across the world in seconds underscores email’s value to the business world.
Even though many communicate via social networks, the foundational medium for business communication will remain email. With workers spending the majority of their days conducting business, email as their primary communication tool will continue to grow. Social networks, while they no doubt have a place in business, will never be their main communication channel. Most of them rely on followers, friends, or links to enable interactions, requiring extra steps to enable communication. Additionally, email has stood the test of time, whereas some social networks have only a fleeting presence.
Yet with the ever-changing technological landscape, the use of email is bound to morph into ways we may not be able to predict. The presence of social networks will most likely impact this evolution. For instance, most social networking platforms allow members to receive messages from their site delivered to their email inboxes. When users opt for this, the volume of email entering their inboxes will (obviously) increase. The flow of these messages into email accounts will certainly make email more social, but workers will have to develop new habits to manage all of them.
The inevitable frustration following an overload of social networks into email systems will also be a challenge for many. Work/life balance and priority-setting issues are bound to grow as workers fall behind in handling all the messages delivered to their inboxes. Managers will have to stay on top of the trends in order to ensure that their workers stay on top of their work.
Due to the advent of social networking, separating business and social communication might actually be easier than before. It may evolve so that email will be used more and more for purely business reasons, while online social interactions will be reserved for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and whatever future iterations of these may come.
We do know is that the way people use email is bound to change. The sheer volume of email that the average worker receives will dictate different ways to manage and respond. We also know that businesses rely on email. Business is not going away and neither is email. The future use of email remains to be seen, but we can at least see where it’s going. Email is not dying, so instead of wishing it an “R.I.P.,” remember that email is still a WIP, a work in progress that’s evolving alongside our other communication tools.
What do YOU think?
It has happened to all of us. Those email messages that are just not – for us – in any way. And THEN, they send you more of the same. Argghhh!
I get this question alot, and yes, I do have some advice for you…
1. address it in person, with friendly dialogue or
2. ignore it.
The worst thing you can do is send an email telling them not to send these things. Why? They will most likely interpret your tone MUCH WORSE than you intended, and instead of neutral feelings, you will have prompted negative feelings towards you.
Trust me – an email in this situation just doesn’t cut it.
Check out our article, just posted on Fox Business “Generation Wired Goes To Work: 5 Tips for New Grads and ‘Old’ Bosses
Here’s an excerpt – you’ll have to go to the article for the 5 tips!
More than a million students graduate this month and are ready to enter the workforce. However, at a time when these former students willingly admit to being tangled in an endless web of distractions, employment could present their greatest challenge yet: staying focused for an eight-hour day.
While there is always some doom and gloom surrounding the work habits of the current stock of college grads, this year raises questions that may justify the concerns. How will graduates deal with digital distraction and information overload in the workplace? Will it be hard for a generation that grew up with the Internet to work for a generation that didn’t?
What are YOUR suggestions for new grads and/or “old bosses”?
While connectivity around the clock can be extremely advantageous at times, do not abuse this luxury. Constant connectivity can be draining and stressful. Set specific boundaries around when you’ll view your Smartphone or BlackBerry. Hit the off switch when you walk into your home. Don’t let browsing thorough your inbox become a nightly routine. Give the weekend a rest.
Great post by LifeHacker.com on words to avoid to avoid getting your company in trouble. You laugh – these were in found in actual court documents.
- Big Problem
- Serious trouble
- I can’t believe
Click here for the whole article.