Email ranks high on lists of top stressors at the office. Designed to make businesses operative more effectively and productively, email now creates hours spent trying to sort and archive (or find) old messages and find the elusive “inbox zero.”
Using email correctly is an important part of professional etiquette. Habits that you might use in an attempt to make things more efficient for yourself or others could end up making life miserable for your colleagues (or worse, your managers or supervisors). Think you’re free and clear from bad email habits? See if you do any of these on a regular basis.
Replying to all or CC’ing coworkers on every e-mail. If you’re sent a group email, you might think that everyone on the original thread should see your response. Not true. When you reply to all (or CC an email to your colleagues or supervisors), it sends the message that you feel your message is important enough to require them to stop and read it. It’s best to limit your responses to the original sender unless the email directly impacts everyone else. A request to solve a problem (settling on a meeting date, deliberating on how to handle a mistake, etc.) requires all voices to communicate. A simple request for information probably doesn’t.
Replying instantaneously. Of course it’s more professional to reply to an email promptly than wait days or weeks to get around to it. But in an attempt to appear prompt and organized, you might be taking on bad email habits by answering
emails too soon. When you’re constantly checking and replying to email, you send the message that you’re always available. Then, in the event that you’re in a meeting or working away from your computer or phone, colleagues or clients that you’ve “spoiled” to expect an instant reply might get the sense that you’re taking too long to respond — even if you’re not. Create a culture of reasonable expectations so that you’re not shooting yourself in the foot later on.
Expecting replies right away. On the flip side of the equation are people who feel that they must call or drop in on email recipients who don’t immediately respond. Email is asynchronous communication; it doesn’t always happen in real time. Use a messaging app or pick up the phone if you need an answer on something right away, but emailing and then calling or following up right away comes across as pestering. Save your emails for questions or requests that aren’t direly urgent.
Overusing email for projects. Email is a wonderful tool for communication, but inboxes easily get bogged down when this tool is used for managing projects. Sending proofs back and forth, for example, or keeping up with changing deadlines or details might benefit from another tool. There are all sorts of project management tools and apps out there, from Slack to Asana to Basecamp. Research how these tools might actually improve communication and follow-through with your team instead of relying on old technology to solve new problems.
Has your team adopted any office policies to counteract bad email habits? Do you think those policies make your workplace more productive?
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