9 Strategies for Effective Use of Email at Work and More
The Importance of Email for Businesses
Some estimates put the amount of daily online business correspondence at nearly 130 billion globally. Email is an effective tool for businesses, but e-messages must be handled with the utmost professionalism. In spite of the significance of email in business interactions, training in utilizing electronic mail is seldom provided by most employers. Coincidentally, workers must grasp the distinction between personal and commercial correspondence when using business resources.
Truly, business interactions with email can be detrimental if not conducted properly. As a rehabilitation counselor, I’ve worked with clients on improving written and verbal skills for the business environment. In addition, I’ve aided employers with implementing strategies for communicating effectively with email. Below are techniques which have proven beneficial and ideas for creating a helpful policy.
How often do you interact at work through email?
9 Effective Strategies for Use of Email at Work
1. Avoid inappropriate jokes. Using certain words and phrases to denigrate an individual can be grounds for immediate dismissal. Many organizations have policies against the use of explicit language, i.e. schools. Types of offensive comments in email and other communications include: racial slurs, bigoted national origin statements, biased comments about a person’s disability, and insults pertaining to sexual orientation. Consequently, research has shown businesses profit from having a respectful reputation toward employees and the general public. Restrict your personal view about comedy from business communications, including emails.
2. Consider the time of day. The time of day can influence reactions to an email. At the end of the day, a person may send an online correspondence in terse language which may not reflect what you know about the employee, customer, or contractor. In addition, consider whether sending an email during off hours is appropriate. For instance, texting a supervisor in the evening when he/she is with family may not be a great idea. (How urgently do you need a reply? Is the issue better dealt with during the next business day?)
3. Try not to email during breaks and lunch. People use breaks and lunch time to recharge from the stress at work. They may also deal with personal issues during these periods. For these reasons, contacting another person via email may result in hastily composed replies with poorly expressed ideas at lunch or break time. A technique often used by professionals is to set aside a time during the workday to respond to and write emails in order to maintain clarity and focus.
4. Determine when email may not be the best option. Topics involving lengthy conversations may be best served through face-to-face interactions or through a phone call. Moreover, confidential matters or sensitive subjects should be avoided in email exchanges at the job site unless with the appropriate human resource personnel or manager. These issues may include: potential discrimination, pay discrepancies, and health concerns. Likewise, brainstorming requires time and effort, making such an activity more suitable for another form of communication. In essence, areas of discussion which require more than a few minutes to resolve may not be appropriate for email.
5. Don’t respond in anger. Receiving some electronic mail may put you in a defensive mindset. However, calm down before sending your response. In today’s work environment, displaying tact is a highly prized attribute in employees. In addition, refrain from using profane vocabulary. Consider this fact: the enraged email you write may become part of the next day’s news cycle or posted on social media. In short, you may wish to keep your job while building productive relationships within and beyond the organization. In other words, demonstrating a capacity for emotional restraint can benefit your overall career path.
6. Think before you send your email. First, mentally think through your word selection for the correspondence. Then, write a draft of the email. Finally, review it and make changes as needed. If time permits, allow another person to give you feedback. Make sure the topic is the center point of the interaction.
7. Use templates when applicable. Having a system in place reduces some of the issues related to email. Many companies and organizations develop and maintain formatted emails for various situations which are routine to the business. Denying or approving services, return of products, along with scheduling meetings are just some of the areas which are appropriate for templates. When an organization takes such a step, quality of service can be enhanced while reducing missteps in written exchanges. Templates are excellent time saving tools as well.
8. Your message should be concise and polite. Compose your message with the understanding you are writing to another human being. Use a courteous greeting and closure. Stay focused on the purpose of the email while avoiding slang and name calling. Get to the point diplomatically. Don’t bring up unrelated concerns.
9. Your tone matters. Do not bully fellow employees, contractors, or consumers in writing or any other form of communication. Threatening language can lead to severe consequences. Keep the tone of the email positive. Show forward thinking by including sentences which demonstrate a willingness to resolve issues. An example could be: “I’m sure we can find a solution to the problem.”
Legal Consequences and Policy Considerations
There may be legal ramifications related to emails sent hastily. Indeed, courts have recognized online correspondence as a written record. Therefore, understand email as business memorandums, electronic documentation, or statements which can be examined if the need arises. In training new employees, companies would benefit from letting workers practice with different scenarios to improve their skills with dealing with email. In essence, developing a policy and engaging in training about email interaction helps an organization steer clear of litigation. Below are some important components of an effective policy pertaining to the use of email. However, business owners may wish to consult an attorney before implementing the policy at the work site.
Essential Components of an Email Policy for Businesses
- Indicate how quickly employees must respond to legitimate online messages.
- Specify every employee must train in the appropriate use of templates.
- Inform employees online correspondence using company resources is subject to review at the discretion of the employer or by the authorities when necessary.
- Define when employees may contact other staff, customers, or contractors via email. (Should phones be off during meetings? Should personal concerns be addressed by email during work hours? When are their exceptions?)
- Elaborate on what to do in unusual circumstances. (In the case of a particularly disturbing e-message, who should be contacted? Should the authorities be notified?)
- How will failure to respond to electronic mail be met? Also, should the email be ignored or forwarded to a supervisor?
- Detail exactly what language an email cannot contain. For instance: “Our organizations has zero tolerance for racial or gender slurs in verbal or written correspondence, including email.
- Specify consequences for violating the policy. For example “If an employee is found to be engaging in bullying language on our email system, he/she will be subject to a review by HR with termination of employment in consideration.