Does it ever feel like people at work aren’t actually reading the emails you send? A recent survey we conducted with employees in the U.S. shows that might actually be happening— 60.8% of respondents in a survey about communication at work said they occasionally or often ignore emails on the job. So how can you make sure your communications get through? Here’s what the survey revealed and how to apply it to your day-to-day work.
Fewer emails make people happy
It seems so simple, but sometimes the most straightforward approach really is the best one: 47.7% of respondents said receiving fewer emails at work would likely increase their happiness. Improving the culture at the office might be as simple as cutting back on emails. Of course, that’s easier said than done. How can you stop emailing people when you have important messages you really need to send?
Here are some ideas on how you can keep inboxes less cluttered.
If your office isn’t using chat yet, start incorporating some kind of chat platform, such as Slack, into your internal communication plan. This can greatly cut down on the amount of small, one-word emails that are typically sent. If your workplace is resistant to incorporating chat, start by using a chat platform with just your immediate team.
- Cut down on quick, one-word emails
- Easily review chat history to find old files or images
- Can be expensive to get your entire office on chat
- Could be difficult for some team members to adjust to a different communication method
Texting might seem like a more personal channel, but there are business texting services that make the practice more and more common in professional settings. If you have a large team, you can send a mass message to everyone at the same time. This could be good for reminders, alerts or even more culture-oriented messages.
- Feels more personal and customized
- A more immediate form of communication
- Difficult to send documents
- Hard to send lengthy messages with lots of detail
Off the clock, inboxes go unchecked
The same survey found that just over one in 10 respondents (11.9%) always check their email after hours. That leaves the majority of people who don’t make a regular practice of reading their email when they aren’t on the clock—39.1% said they occasionally check their email after work while 30% said they never check their email after work.
What this means is that the majority of people who aren’t checking their inboxes regularly when they’re not in the office are going to have full inboxes every morning. Particularly on Monday mornings. If you want to send an email that you know these people will open, try to avoid those high traffic email times.
It’s smart to try minimizing emails at all times, but particularly those after hours. Common email etiquette applies even more so after work. Pause to make sure you have all the information you need to send in one email before firing it off to keep the amount of emails you have to send low.
More important, if you have to connect with people from work after hours, consider other ways of communicating that avoid email altogether. Sending a text message is usually a way to get a quick response, as research shows text messages have a 98% open rate. Another option, of course, is that you could always pick up the phone and call someone.
Avoid email in an emergency
Perhaps one of the most significant times to stay away from email the survey found was during emergency scenarios. While email might be a great way to convey important facts and next steps following an emergency, in the heat of the moment, 43.9% of respondents said that text message is the best way to reach them. It makes sense; people are constantly on their phones and are likely to see a text before an email.
How would you implement this? As a communication professional, you can draft a sequence of text messages for anticipated emergencies such as extreme weather events, an active shooter or a fire. If you’re ever faced with a worst-case scenario, you can edit your text with just a few clicks before sending it out to your entire list.
Alternatively, you could call people to give immediate information that might get missed in an email. The only problem with phone calls is that you have to do each one manually, which could waste valuable time. Not to mention the fact that a lot of people screen their phone calls.
Should you stop sending emails?
Even though a lot of people tend to ignore emails, it’s still a valuable communication method, and it wou;d be extremely challenging to create a plan that does away with email entirely. Instead, try using it as a tool alongside other communication methods to send out messages that will actually be read through appropriate channels.