Effective communication is a key leadership trait and in today’s world, a lot of that communication happens over email. One report said in 2019, an average of 126 emails are sent and received per person per day. That is a lot of email to process effectively.
A recent Harvard Business Review article quoted a study showing “the average professional spends 4.1 hours per day responding to work messages,” and emphasised that even if the time spent in your inbox is less, stress about unanswered messages eats away at most workers’ productivity throughout the day.
There are a lot of great productivity tips around managing email, but think about all the time and energy you waste as a team. Improving internal email habits can be a major contributor in improving team productivity and employee engagement.
Team email habits to improve productivity:
- Limit the number of places to receive messages
Many workplaces use email (sometimes multiple inboxes), Slack or another chat application, Whatsapp, texting and voicemails to receive incoming communications. How many inboxes do you have to process communication? Having too many inboxes increases the likelihood that something will fall through the cracks and takes more time to process.
With your team, you can set some “rules” for using the different communication channels available. For example, you may say chat/Whatsapp is fine for a quick question, but any requests that require another person to complete a task must go through their email inbox.
- Write emails with clear subject lines
This seems obvious, but many people will write questions or leave the subject line blank. As part of your “rules”, include some guidelines for writing clear subject lines. A subject like “Submit your lunch order by 10:30 am” is more likely to get you the information you need than “Lunch.”
I have also seen people use tags in the headline like “ACT: Edit this Powerpoint by tomorrow afternoon” or “READ: Article on best practices” or “URGENT: This prospect needs a call as soon as possible.” Including the tag helps people know if the email requires them to do something and when.
As for the body of the message, be clear and concise. Don’t write a paragraph when a few bullets will do, and be sure to always highlight the action you want the person to take.
- Keep track of what you are waiting for
Most of us send out an email request and spend a lot of time waiting for the other person to respond or take action. Create a system to keep track of emails you are waiting for the other person to respond to so you aren’t keeping this information in your head, or forgetting about it completely.
Increase your accuracy and accountability by keeping emails that you need to follow up on in a folder that you check every other day. Make sure nothing slips through the cracks so you can keep your commitments as a team and chase others who are late to respond.