This is part two of a series of blog posts dedicated to addressing some of the challenges email can present in the work setting. The first in the series addressed the basic system and how to create more efficient methods. The second in the series will identify etiquette and proficiency in reading, replying to, and creating new messages. The last of the series will address how to “start over” with your current system if you are overwhelmed.
Email can be an efficient communication system and also the bane of existence to almost every professional who uses it in his or her career. Are you exasperated and slightly frightened to tally the number of emails you have? How many hours do you spend when reading, responding, or creating emails each day? A poll estimated 6.3 hours daily is spent checking emails, with 3.2 hours devoted to work emails and 3.1 hours to personal messages (Reaney, 2015). It appears this efficient communication method has, in essence, decreased work productivity overall. How does one deal with the email conundrum?
Everyone who is being paid to perfume a job should only be viewing and creating email that is job-related while on the clock. Many organizations have methods of tracking and viewing emails and websites utilized on their Internet system. People have been fired for unjustified use of technology, and every employee needs to be aware of his or her actions. Ethically, this also relates to how one uses their personal technology while on the job as well. To prevent any misunderstandings, I advise everyone to inquire with their boss what the company policy is regarding Internet use, email, and phone use while on the job. Email for work can be a daunting concept. Consider the following strategies to help better manage your system for email:
Etiquette and proficiency in reading, replying to, and creating new messages:
Understand who your message is sent to:
- The “To" field is who is identified as the recipient of your message who is most important regarding the content (he or she may need to take action) AND is visible to whoever receives it. If you are sending a message to a group, and the members identified may not like the others within the group knowing his or her email address, then you need to use a system to hide everyone’s name and email address. You can do a web search for your email platform on how to send messages to a group where you create the group title or to a group of “undisclosed recipients.”
- The “Cc" field is where you list additional recipients of your message that you want to keep aware of message content but don’t necessarily expect an action from the person. These names and email addresses are observable to all recipients.
- The “Bcc" field is a blind carbon copy recipient, and these names/email addresses are not visible to other recipients.
What to write in the subject line:
- Use your tags (review last month’s blog post).
- Remember the subject line is usually the only text the recipient reads prior to opening the message. Many people decide whether or not to open a message or send it to directly to the trash by what is written in the subject line.Your sentence needs to identify what the email is about and possibly the actions required. For Example: Requesting meeting for job candidate pool (Dev. & Marketing, July 2016).
Reading and replying:
- Open each message and immediately decide if is an instant reply, to be sent to the trash, or to be placed into one of your folders.
- If you are replying, and you need to keep the thread of messages, look at the subject line and add any tags that will help to locate it the future. Review last month’s blog posted to learn more about tags.
- If the message came as a group message, then consider if you should reply “to all” or single out who to reply to. Reply to everyone only if it is essential that everyone views your reply.
- Less is more! You can ask your boss about your organization's policies for replying to messages. Some may like you to be more formal and use certain salutations and add “niceties.” Others may want you to reply only the pertinent information. For example, if you receive a message request for an update on a project asking several questions, then you can reply to each question using a single word or as few words as possible. You may not need to provide detailed descriptions of everything that has been done with the project to date. You can always include a phrase like, "please contact me via phone if you would like more details regarding any of the above responses.”
Creating the body of the message:
- Again, less is more, as was written for the reply message above. Decide whether your message will be a one-time message, or if you can create a template if you need to send this type of message routinely.
- Email Templates:
- Identify the type of email messages you will most likely create for your job. Are there certain types you will routinely send? Examples might be: requests for scheduling a meeting, promotional news blasts, invoices, client letters, etc.
- Ask your boss if there is a current template for the various types of emails you will be sending. If not, create one that provides a concise and visually friendly layout of the information you need to send.
- Some templates may appear as a letter format and others might look like an information document with bolded header sections of organized content. The previous examples are ones you can create as a document in a word processor. These will increase your productivity because you won’t need to type them each time you send them. When you use the template to send a message, you can customize it and add more information to it for each email, but it will already have the basics of everything needed for all messages of that type of mailing.
- Some templates may appear as a newsletter and need embedded graphics and hyperlinks. These types of templates are usually intended to be sent to groups of recipients. There are several websites that offer free and for-purchase pre-made or easily customizable templates. You can do a web search for “email templates” to find the plethora of options. When you use these types of templates, there are often requirements for how they can be sent and if they can be opened by the recipients (some email platforms limit the size capacity for sending and receiving messages).
- You should also review the best practices for formatting emails regarding visual layout, font size and style, and accessibility.
Create an email signature:
- Ask your boss what your organization requires. Usually, there is a unified system for organizations requiring a specific font style and size, and format. If not, here is a nice source to help you create one: How To Write A Damn Good Email Signature. This article indicates you should use a graphic. Consider the “digital size” of your graphic because it will be considered in the size constraint for sending and receiving messages. It will also be accounted for in your systems storage capacities.
- If you send messages from mobile devices, you may want to have an additional signature that indicates it is being sent from that device. Researchers have indicated people are more forgiving of spelling and grammar errors from smart phones and tablet devices because of issues associated with the auto correct replacing your intended word choices. Note- editing every email regardless of what device used to create it is essential to being viewed as a credible professional.
The email messages you create represent you as a professional. Even if the recipient has never met you before, he or she will make assumptions about how knowledgeable you are regarding the subject, and how intelligent you are by how organized your information is and the number of spelling and grammatical errors found in the message. Additionally, if you have created a message using fonts, colors, and layouts that are not easily read by others, then your message might not even be read. Lastly, understanding tagging and the other strategies for enhancing productivity can make using email a less daunting task.
"U.S. Workers Spend 6.3 Hours A Day Checking Email: Survey." Huffpost Endeavor. Patricia Reaney, 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 14 June 2016.