This April marks 40 years since the Queen sent the first royal email. The workplace wouldn’t follow suit for nearly another 20 years, but when it did email’s capacity to instantly send messages and documents to anyone anywhere with a connection meant a love affair was born.
While the Queen stuck with letters and telegrams the workplace has become deluged with emails vying for our attention.
The result? According to a 2015 study by Future Work Centre: emails decreased productivity and increased stress. So, today we’re sharing our top tips on communicating well at work or for work in the digital age.
1. Know when to use email.
As psychologist Abraham Maslow pointed out: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Except that we don’t just have email, we just choose to use it for everything, whether it’s the right tool or not.
TIP: Before emailing ask if it’s the right tool for the job. Got an urgent question? Pick up the phone as a first port of call. If you want to keep track of a conversation you can always follow up with a confirmation email.
2. Know how to use email.
If you’re emailing someone in a formal capacity – ie, a new client or a potential new boss – it’s best to think in terms of traditional letter writing. Start with ‘dear’ and end with ‘kind regards’.
TIP: Even if your new email pal replies all emoticons and kisses don’t do it – remain professional. Tweet: Even if your new email pal replies all emoticons and kisses don’t do it – remain professional @Angel_HR_UK #AngelView http://goo.gl/pEIfdl
3. Know what to call your email.
Last year 122 business emails were sent and received per user per day. That’s a lot of emailing and a lot of opportunity for your email to be overlooked.
TIP: Think like a lawyer and title your emails like a traditional legal letter. “Re: Project X Meeting” tells you what it is instantly. Titling emails ‘hello’ is effectively consigning your message to the email slush pile. Tweet: Titling emails ‘hello’ is effectively consigning your message to the email slush pile. @Angel_HR_UK #AngelView http://goo.gl/pEIfdl
4. How not to be an email spammer.
However important or great your message don’t be tempted to pepper your recipient with emails. Remember what happened to LinkedIn when it’s members thought it was sending them too many ‘friendly’ reminders? That’s right, it annoyed them so much they were taken to court and fined $13 million.
Tip: Don’t let email desperation get you put on the spam list. Even Channing Tatum only sent Quentin Tarantino one email a day to get a Hateful Eight audition. Tweet: Channing Tatum only sent Quentin Tarantino one email a day to get a Hateful Eight audition @Angel_HR_UK #AngelView http://goo.gl/pEIfdl
5. Don’t apologise for your email.
That said, little old empathic you shouldn’t apologise for sending a bone fide message just because you know it’s one of a multitude. By using words like ‘sorry’, ‘think’ or ‘feel’ you can be undermining your own message before someone’s even had a chance to press delete.
Tip: Gmail has an app, Just Not Sorry, designed to manage this very thing. Download it if you think you’re feeling too sorry.
6. Get in control of your emails
If you’re feeling sorry every time you look at your inbox then you might want to try some inbox cleansing. Interestingly the Future Work Centre found that some well managed inboxes equalled an efficient work-mind, while others a distracted mind – depending on whose mind it was.
Tip: Use a service like Unroll.Me to get you going. When you log into your email through Unroll.Me you’ll see all your subscriptions in one place. Simply swipe left on the ones you never want to see again, et voila! Just don’t let organising your inbox take over your life…
7. When emails are controlling your life
The ability to access emails from your laptop and smartphone may make working a flexible prospect but it also means you’re always taking work home with you – in the form of email interaction, at least. How you deal with this may depend on your role, your workplace culture and the associated expectations, but some of it comes down to you.
Tip: Try allocating time to check emails rather than doing it on demand. And, if you don’t need to be contactable 24/7 turn off those email notifications when you’re at home. For more email management tips try Mind Tools.
Next Steps: How are your email management techniques looking?
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