It seems as though at times the email faucet never slows. And the more emails coming in – and the more emails to sort through – the higher our stress.
The question for leaders is this:
What can you do to help your team focus and be more productive? And what steps can you take to reduce your own email overload?
Our new research, the 2012 Work-related Email Perception Study, provides a unique view of how employees in a variety of industries, roles and functions perceive email and the strategies they feel are most helpful in dealing with its frequent excess.
Perception & Reality
The detailed results offer interesting insights:
- Email is seen as an effective and necessary communication tool by more than three-quarters of all audiences (84% of executives; 83% of middle managers; 77% of employees)
- Limiting email outside normal business hours is seen as very effective by few (11% of executives; 20% of middle managers; 13% of employees)
- Limiting email during normal business hours carries even less support (8% of executives; 15% of middle managers; 11% of employees)
Through our research employees said they want guidelines and policies to help address the overwhelming amount of irrelevant email that fills their inbox each day.
And while dealing with irrelevant email has become a challenge – and frustration – for almost everyone, middle managers are feeling that pain the most.
The results of our research demonstrate middle managers spend 6,000 minutes (100 hours) on irrelevant email each year. That’s not just email, it’s irrelevant email. Additionally, supervisors spend 5,250 minutes (87.5 hours) and employees spend 4,250 minutes (71 hours) on irrelevant email every year.
Those numbers add up pretty quickly for any organization.
Solutions to email overload do exist. As a leader all eyes are on you and your actions play a central role.
Getting Out of Email Hell
Here are some email best practices that you can blend into your communications today:
Use email to:
- Provide directional information
- Share a status update, briefly, in the message
- Include additional information through a link or attachment
- Offer time-sensitive information uniformly to a group of recipients
- Record of your communication
Don’t use email to:
- Give negative news or feedback
- Describe complicated, detailed or lengthy topics
- Keep the recipient from having the chance to respond in a conversational manner
- Discuss topics that are nuanced and require context to understand fully
Email tips and best practices:
- Keep messages short and clear to read; use bullet points to highlight information
- Be clear in the subject line by briefly explaining the content of your message
- Detail when you need a response and what you’re expecting
- Pick up the phone if the email chain is going back and forth; recognize that email is not always the right vehicle, especially for complex topics
- Respond quickly
- Proofread your emails for correct spelling, grammar and punctuation
- Double check you’ve used the right email addresses and attachments; avoid distributing proprietary information
- Answer all questions to limit avoid back and forth messages
- Use “Reply All” only when everyone needs to see your message
- Check with the recipient to see how they would like to receive large attachments
- Avoid message that contain nuance or sarcasm; email doesn’t express either one well
Email overload touches just about everyone and every organization. Yet solutions do exist.
With a smart plan and the right approach, email can become the effective and efficient communication tool it was meant to be within your organization.
At the same time, you’ll raise the bar of your overall communications, reinforcing the benefits of face-to-face and voice-to-voice communications.
See here for more on the 2012 Work-related Email Perception Study
So, how ugly is your email inbox? What tips can you implement now to handle the volume and urgency issues that keep increasing? How can you get a total handle on your email communications before 2013 rolls in? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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