How much time do you think you spend writing, reading, sorting and talking about emails while you are at work? Far too long is the most probable answer as many organisations and independent studies have reported that the average employee spends anything between two hours and more than 50% of their working day immersed in email correspondence.
The Daily Telegraph has recently drawn to our attention that the head of Atos, one of Europe’s largest information technology services companies, is about to ban staff from sending each other emails. Thierry Breton has argued that sending internal emails is outdated and a waste of time, causing a huge loss of productivity. He has suggested that only 10% of the 200 or so emails his staff receive every day are likely to be useful and he is aiming to implement this ban in the next 18 months.
The dominance of email in the workplace can be extremely damaging to our productivity and is causing us to lose the ability to focus on any one task for an extended period of time. ORSE, an independent watchdog, has reported that 70% of new emails are reacted to within six seconds and it then takes us an average of 64 seconds to resume working at the same rate as before the interruption. It is not difficult to do the maths and work out the enormous cost of time wasted on constant email monitoring.
For the time being, a complete zero tolerance to email may be a step to far for most organisations but many companies are now putting in place email policies which guide their employees in the appropriate use of email. The tips below should help individuals to use email as an effective business tool rather than a crutch they can’t live without.
As a sender of emails consider making the following changes to save time and improve your own and your colleagues’ productivity
- Consider very carefully who you copy in to your emails and don’t be afraid to remove recipients from ongoing email threads when you know it is no longer relevant for them
- Consider even more carefully sending emails to large distribution groups such as the entire division or office. Does everyone really need to know that you have lost your stapler or your voice or that the sandwich vendor is running late?
- Before you send a sensitive email think about whether it would be more appropriate to grab five minutes on the phone or even better face-to-face with the recipient – and never ever use email to express negative emotion
- If you are sending an email to update your manager or team, make sure you are not simply ‘blowing your own trumpet’ or sharing trivial information but that you really have an important message to share
- Never chase or ask for progress updates long before the agreed deadline – this is only likely to frustrate or worse distract the recipient from completing the task
- Make sure you have all the information you need to send to your recipient before you hit the send button – it can be irritating to receive three emails on the same topic just because the sender was in too much of a hurry to think it through
As an email recipient, help yourself by following the tips below:
- Turn off all your email alerts so that your senses are not distracted each time a new email arrives and you can continue to focus on the task in hand
- Discipline yourself to check your emails only once an hour or ideally once every couple of hours. It is rare that something is so urgent it can’t wait an hour or so and if it really is imperative that you respond the sender can usually find another way of contacting you. We also need to train our colleagues not to expect immediate responses from us
- Respond to your emails in batches if possible – when you open an email that has an easy answer reply directly and delete or file it rather than closing it and then reading again later
- Create folders with rules so that updates, newsletters and other emails you know are not urgent can be automatically directed into a dedicated folder to be read at a later stage – if you find you never read them then unsubscribe
- If you know that the morning, for example, is your most productive time of day don’t waste the first hour or so of your day responding to non-urgent emails
Email writing, etiquette and management can be a minefield and it can take an outside perspective for us to take on quite simple tips and strategies that will help us to ensure that email helps rather than hinders our professional life. Professional email writing training programmes can help you to re-evaluate the way you currently manage your email and to put in place better practice for using this business tool more effectively and efficiently.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2011