I recently had a conversation with the Chief People Officer of a well known New York based leisure brand. She was explaining to me in a rather exasperated tone how the ‘always-on’ email culture in her organization creates anxiety and inhibits rather than enhances productivity. I could literally see the anguish on her face. She asked how many emails I get a per day, then looked a little perplexed when I said “around 20”! Curiously, she asked how this was possible.
I thought I would share my response (in no specific order of priority).
- You must set the tone from the top. If the CEO blasts out 50 emails on a Sunday afternoon, then this is not a good starting point.
- Email is a useful communications medium when used in the right context. Example: It’s a channel many of my customers prefer, so this context is not a choice. In my own organization we try to restrict email to the sending & receiving of formal legal documents or contracts.
- I have not used the CC function since 2006 and I never reply all. Mostly I don’t reply at all. More on this below.
- With the emails I get, I typically let them ‘age’ for a few days before responding (if a response is necessary) and often its not.
- When a response is required, more often than not, it will come in the form of a phone call or text message thereby breaking the email chain.
- Set rules and reinforce them. No one in my company sends email on weekends. Nothing is that urgent. If it was you would pick up the phone.
- Respect time zones. Just because it is morning where you are does not mean you should ruin someones else's morning by filling their inbox!
- Use a chat App. Most email has become chatter anyway. But make sure you apply similar rules, obey times zones, don’t create chat groups where you have members there merely as an FYI. Exit any group which have no obvious benefit.
- Turn off email notifications on your smart phone. It’s a symbolic gesture as it does not make the emails go away, but it means you are less likely to click and open when you see the little red dot appear.
- Free yourself from the marketing automation robots. Unsubscribe.
- Schedule time to check email. Don’t do it as soon as you wake, do it at work.
- Finally, whether its email or a chat APP, be polite. If you were speaking to someone in person you would take the time to express a greeting, at-least at the outset of the conversation. The emails I get that don’t have a proper introduction tend to ‘age’ the longest.