Email at Work

by Barbara Buffton

In a nutshell

1. Curse or blessing?

Email communication both saves us time and takes up too much of our time. Email communication both saves us time and takes up too much of our time. It is a fantastic tool if we access it only from time to time and in between times get on with the other things we have to do.


2. Staying in control

You can master your inbox with a few simple techniques and strategies:

  • Archive, delete or delegate anything not actionable by you
  • Have email-free days
  • Unsubscribe, where possible
  • Access email only at certain times


3. Dangerous assumptions

The quicker you respond to emails, the easier it is to communicate poorly. At what point does your potential for miscommunication occur? Is it in the writing or in the interpretation by the recipient? Whichever it is, it is the sender’s responsibility to ensure the intended message has the desired impact.

  • Don’t assume the recipient will know how urgent your email is unless you spell it out.
  • ‘Read receipt’ doesn’t always ensure your email has been read properly.
  • People sometimes only give emails a quick scan.


4. Before you hit ‘send’

The consequences of ill-considered emails can be confusion, or worse, so it pays to take the following points on board and make them an automatic part of your email technique.

  • Is it necessary?
  • Is the subject line relevant and accurate?
  • Is it so long you should break it up into bullet points or even several emails?
  • Never hit send when you’re angry.
  • Don’t respond too quickly.


5. Some email basics

Remember, every communication with the outside world represents you, your organisation and your brand.

  • Make sure you don’t mention an attachment and then omit to include it.
  • Use ‘Dear X’ and so on unless you are sure the person won’t think it rude if you launch straight into your message.
  • Stick to a single subject within email trails.
  • Build rapport by following the other person’s communication style.


6. Email on the move

Many people now have devices that allow them to access their emails when on the move. This makes it even more important your message is one that they are able to read easily and want to read.


7. Seven mistakes to avoid

We may add to other people’s sense of overload, either through laziness or ignorance. If each of us began to be more mindful of good practice with regards to email communication, then we could positively impact email culture within our organisations. Avoid

  • Using cc indiscriminately
  • Replying to all unnecessarily
  • Sharing email addresses without permission
  • Lazy subject lines
  • Using email when phoning would be better
  • Inappropriate humour
  • Not practising what you preach.


8. What to do if it all goes wrong

We sometimes send inaccurate emails or emails to the wrong people. Mistakes like this can cost us valuable time and money – or even our job. It is therefore important to put things right: pick up the phone or go and see the person.


9. Security and legal issues

How secure and/or confidential is your email? Sending an email is a bit like sending a postcard: anyone could read it; it could get lost or fall into the wrong hands. The lack of adequate email security measures could result in libel action for companies. It is imperative that employees are aware of their organisation’s policy on email as well as what is required on a legal and regulatory basis.