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Efficient Email Practices at Work

Efficient Email Practices: How to Train Your Workforce

How can you easily make your company’s workforce more efficient? No matter what industry you’re in, your workers are likely spending a significant amount of time on email. So, besides making more powerful coffee, you’d be wise to try improving their email habits.

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As stated in a previous Compensation Today post, “The Importance of a Company Email Policy,” the average worker spends two hours a day, on average, composing, reading or responding to email. Here are some tips for workers and managers to be extra efficient when using email.

We’ll start with tips that you can offer your company’s workforce:

1. One thing at a time. Focus for 30-40 minutes alternatively on email and project work to ensure that multitasking doesn’t distract from productivity. Turn off popups.

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2. Touch once. View the email once and deal with it by filing it, taking action, forwarding or deleting it. This process gets tricky on a mobile device, thus a similar strategy should be adhered to if you access your email on a mobile device. Keep in mind Covey’s urgent/important matrix.

3. Use analysis tools. If, like some of my clients, you receive 300-400 emails each day, you may consider a trending application to help you analyze your most common email sources and recipients, such as a MailTrends. One of my clients figured out that her top email recipient was a cubical away. Now they meet daily for a half hour over a latte.

4. Delayed deletion. Also a proponent of the “touch-once” time management mindset, Nathan Zeldes suggests the “five weeks folder” for those items you may be called on to discuss, but will auto-purge in the long term.

5. Leave lists behind. Ruthlessly and shamelessly remove yourself from distribution lists. Cull incoming email utilizing the rules functionality of your email client.

6. Just long enough. When authoring email, Pierre Khawand recommends we strike a balance between brevity and the required larger context to ensure a 12 hour email loop doesn’t develop into the 72 hour email loop.

Managers can benefit from the strategies above. There are also some extra tips that will help them lead their team by example.

1. Delay your response. Do you respond to every email within minutes? Even on weekends? Consider that you are modeling expected behavior to your team. Rest assured they take note of your email practices.

2. Be choosy. If indeed the message you send your team requires an instant response (this is especially noticed over the weekends by your team) then realize the work-life-balance impact of that behavior and prepare yourself for feedback from your team, either in words or action.

3. Check in. You may think your team or group has no issues with 24/7 email requirements. Have you asked? Perhaps a team member has remarked to you, “Wow, you are working a lot lately”? If so, consider that they may not be complimenting you on your work ethic, rather they may be wondering if you expect the same of them. This is a great opportunity to share expectations with each other.

4. Set expectations. If instantaneous response to email is not the requirement you want to set with your team, articulate this clearly and watch their faces for non-verbal clues to how they feel upon clearly hearing this expectation from you. Equally important, make sure your behavior sends the same message.


Lynne Tarter, SPHR
Global Communicator

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