Email & Workplace Efficiency

In a 2012 McKinsey Global Institute study, researchers found that employees spend about 28% of their days reading and responding to emails. While useful, email is absorbing huge chunks of time that could be better spent.

Email (especially in the workplace) has quickly become both a blessing and a curse. We’re all guilty of dropping everything we’re doing to see who emailed us and responding almost instantaneously. Even though we know it’s inefficient to continuously switch our brain from work-mode to email-mode, it is nearly impossible to avoid in today’s world where we receive emails to our desktops, tablets, watches, cell phones and glasses (if you’re into that).

A few months ago, Kerrie wrote a great article about Chunking, which explains how to segment your day in order to increase efficiency. Since then, the entire team at Old Town Media has been working on establishing ways to get the most done during an 8 hour workday, including cutting down on emails all together. Although marketing account managers do require a large amount of communication via email, it’s not always the best tool. Inspired by an eye-opening article, we set up some guidelines regarding when to email, when to pick up the phone and how to use email to our advantage.

Good Uses of Email

Sending Instant Notifications
If there is something that the whole team needs to know about immediately, an email is warranted. Following good email etiquette, aim to keep these emails short & sweet so everyone can read them quickly and easily decide whether they need to file it away, delete or respond.

Follow Up Messages 
Don’t be rude or inconsiderate – respond to every email unless it is spam, junk or a mass email that does not actually require action on your part. Again, these do not need to be long and convoluted. A simple “Thank you” or “Sounds good!” will suffice unless you actually have questions or input. Especially professionally, these small gestures make a big difference when it comes to how clients or vendors perceive your general reliability.

Often times, introduction emails are slightly less intimidating and forceful than a phone call. Be sure to write a personalized and considerate message when you are following up with a new contact or asking to be introduced to someone for networking purposes. In this case, email allows you to include context and gives the other person ample time to craft an appropriate response. Sometimes people are simply not interested in continuing a networking relationship, so it is essential to be respectful of their wishes and not bombard them with additional emails.

Thank You Notes 
Though snail mail may be fading, one of the golden rules of life still applies. After an interview, if someone sends you a great referral or even if someone just brings you Starbucks, don’t forget to send a thank you note. Although picking up the phone may be more appropriate in some cases, a thank you email is usually greatly appreciated and well-received.

Replacing A Meeting 
Meetings are a big part of our business but we are the first to tell you that sometimes meetings are a complete waste of time. Of course, there are a number of clients that get things done much faster in person as opposed to email or over the phone. However, there are certainly a number of things that can be settled without having to come into the office for a meeting, inevitably disrupting our work-mode brains.

Not-So-Good Uses of Email

Letting People Know You’re Working 
Especially young, ambitious employees will often send emails to their bosses or co-workers early in the morning or late at night to prove that they’re working overtime. While it might be the norm in some company cultures, it’s not exactly guaranteed to help you at all. In fact, research has shown that time off from work helps improve productivity and innovation.

Back-And-Forth Conversations 
At a certain point, it takes you more time to read and type out responses than it would to simply pick up the phone and call. If you’re stuck in a back-and-forth conversation, it’s clear that you and the person on the other end need to hash things out. Save yourself some time and take the conversation offline.

Sensitive Matters 
We all know that email can be very easily misinterpreted, especially when dealing with complicated or sensitive matters. When you need to make sure your message is clear, try to set up a meeting (not a waste of time in this case) or schedule a phone call. As secure as email may claim to be, it’s still the internet and sensitive items like medical issues, credit card numbers or personal matters are best not shared through the cloud.

Email is a great tool but not the only one.

Try implementing these guidelines for the next month and see how much time you save not having to type and revise countless emails every day. Do your best to close your inbox and silence your phone for chunks of time to truly let your brain stay focused on one thing. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call someone.