Is it still worth trying to optimize employees’ email productivity in 2021? Well, the usage of emails has never been higher and doesn’t seem to stop overnight.
I assume that these numbers will increase as a result of working more from a distance in the future. Therefore, I do believe there is plenty of low-hanging fruits to be harvested, improving the way employees use email efficiently.
Does your workplace develop its employee’s productivity and email communication?
I’ve never joined an organization with a specific focus and courses on green employees productivity and email skills. Besides, I’ve never met a governed broad initiative to secure a productive high-quality email culture. I wonder if I’m the only one with these experiences?
Maybe we’ve accepted our current level of email communication as the best we can do? Or we might be anticipating we’re already utilizing email to its full extent? Admittedly, we’re talking a lot about how many emails we receive daily and how things could be better. But how much effort do we honestly invest in walking all that talk?
I’ve taken the freedom to share some experiences, principles, and guidelines in this article. You may use the suggestions as inspiration for using emails more professionally, effectively, and respectfully in your workplace if needed?
Is an email the best choice?
Always ask yourself, “Is writing this email the most productive and respectful way to communicate my message and expectations?”
A real conversation is the most communicative way we can interact with other people. Talking face to face also includes facial expression and gestures. But, if we’re physically separated, an online meeting or phone call may be sufficient.
We should always strive to send emails that are short, “sweet,” and to the point. To avoid mixing things up, try sticking to a single topic per email—without being rigid—and remember, less is more!
Subject to be brief, precise and engaging
The subject is often the first and only part of an email we ever read or scan. A subject is best when small, accurate, and memorable. Like an appealing and conveying headline.
Beware that an email without a subject probably goes directly to spam or trash without ever being read!
Well-written and scannable body text
If you want to signal professionalism, you must send well-written and typo-free messages with adequate punctuation. The spell checker is always helpful, not just in case of clumsy fingers.
Be sure to provide an appealing and scannable structure when the amount of text progress. Your readers don’t have the patience for big chunks of text!
Use headings, paragraphs, bullets, and numbered lists to structure your text. You can also help the reader by using text formatting to emphasize important words and phrases.
Put the right recipients in the To and Cc fields
You must be clear to whom you’re writing and what you expect them to do. If you have some options or suggestions, be sure to express them. By giving recipients options or choices, you can speed up the process and furthermore avoid a game of email ping pong.
The To field is for recipients you expect to read the message. If you need them to do something, make it very clear. Beware, the more recipients, the vaguer the perceived responsibility tends to be for each of them!
The Cc field is for recipients you don’t necessarily expect to read the email. Cc recipients will maybe read, but merely be archiving your email. Be cautious not to misuse Cc as a means of pressure or to display a disrespectful or insulting meaning.
The Bcc field works as a blind copy. Only the sender can see the Bcc recipients.
High priority emails to be followed up personally
To be on the safe side, you better follow up on your top priority emails by talking to the recipient. Don’t rely blindly on a written media, since a perfect email is worthless without being read!
By the way, only use the high priority option sparingly when truly needed. Otherwise, you’ll quickly get an unwanted reputation as Peter and the Wolf.
Response times – what can you expect?
We should never expect an instant reaction when it comes to emails. We must agree in advance before expecting immediate results.
Don’t be a notorious quick replier, perhaps signaling a superficial attitude or exceptionally keen to show you’re online. Anyway, if you’re capable of giving a fast yet thoughtful answer, then do it and move on.
Respect a given deadline as a rule of thumbs! If you’re unable to do that, be attentive and notify in advance.
Forwarding – remember to add value!
Before you forward an email, add value, and make your purpose and expectations crystal clear.
You can use snippets, or screen dumps to help recipients getting to the point quickly.
We must remember to respect each other’s time and effort. So, bear in mind that readers may chew on every single word you forward!
If we spend a little time deleting what’s obsolete or not essential to numerous recipients, it’s genuinely worth it in the long run. Of course, the opposite can be the case with information legally required!
Emptying our Inbox every day (Inbox Zero) can be excellent. But stay clear from throwing the “garbage” to somebody else. It’s not efficient at all just pushing unclear and confusing messages around with a lazy FYI or FYA!
Reply to All – probably not?
We find it natural to send an email to multiple recipients. But when responding to joint messages, the Reply to All option should never be our default choice.
You should strive to send value-adding emails only, and strictly limited to those required recipients. Imagine the total cost reduction and increased productivity if we were living that single email habit!
Only write things you don’t mind getting forwarded
If you are keeping a pleasant tone and style, you can always relax and stay calm. Contrary, you may wonder and bother where your messages might turn up?
When you’re full of intense emotions—good or bad—do raise your inner STOP sign! If we ride on our feelings, we often make mistakes we regret after a good night’s sleep.
When your feelings control you, please stay away from the Send button!
Humor and sarcasm is potential dynamite!
Communicating without our voice and rich body language always increases the risk of misunderstandings and uncertainty.
If we furthermore start playing around with ironic humor and sarcasm in the written form, we must be sure about its potentially unwanted impact too. So don’t be too smart, swift, or tricky with your expression in emails.
How often should I check my Inbox?
I don’t think there is a reasonable one size fits all answer to this question because it depends on the situation. But let’s break it down to be more specific:
First of all, there is a considerable difference between briefly scanning through new items in your Inbox and responding to those time-demanding emails. The latter is something you should schedule and timebox separately while planning your week.
If you’re allowed to plan and structure your workday without any restrictions, then you could give these questions a thought:
“Does my work require to check emails when I meet or within specified intervals?”
If YES, which is quite rare in reality, you better follow the rules.
Nevertheless, NO will be an honest answer for most of us. But we may be habitually adhering to unwritten rules and patterns?
“Do I have my to-dos ready in the morning?”
If you have a plan for the day, then hold to it, and let unread emails be waiting for you.
Only when you need a mental break, you should interrupt your flow and check for new emails. In that way, you’re controlling your Inbox, not opposite! You’ll probably check for new emails a couple or four times per day if you follow this approach. Give it a try to find your sweet spot.
Summing up: Employees Email Productivity Boost in 2021
I guess most of us have achieved our current email skills randomly via learning by doing. But to reach a shared level of high-quality email communication, I suggest that we give each other a helping hand.
And hopefully, this article can be a supportive and inspirational kick starter for some of you? If you choose to test the tips and ideas, you’re more than welcome to share outcomes and experiences here with us.
If you’ve got practical experience from a highly productive working environment, please let us know your “secret” email recipe in the comment section below.