For all those with an office job, email is the most widely used means of communication. An average office worker receives 121 emails daily. If we consider an 8-hour work day, that would mean the person has about one hour to read (and process) around 15 emails, which does not leave a lot of time to actually “get some work done”. Originally, email was developed as a productivity tool. But, with the frequency of emails today, it is more associated with distraction than getting things done. Constant email distractions can have a negative effect on productivity, making it harder to focus on completing a task, even if a person is a great multitasker. On the other hand, not addressing the emails immediately can lead to email backlog which then creates frustration and stress.
Although there are numerous tactics to achieve good time management in order to handle all the emails received, it is also important to talk about the source of the issue which is: Why do managers have that many emails to start with? Here are 5 reasons why managers might be receiving too many emails.
Managers frequently find themselves reading emails and thinking: “why am I copied in this?”. The answer to that question is that they are probably victims of too many ‘reply all’ and ‘for your information’ emails. Perhaps their coworkers and/or employees have the habit of over-communicating. However, perhaps these coworkers and employees feel they absolutely must include their manager in all communication. This is a sign that the chosen work philosophy does not work. Nobody likes a micromanager.
Experts advise managers to stop being afraid to exclude themselves from the communication that does not necessarily concern them. It is important to learn to let it go for the sake of freeing up precious time (and decluttering their Inbox). If there is no action item for the manager in the email chain, he/she should simply explain that they don’t need to be copied in all emails around that issue. They should only be updated when the final decision has been made or in the case of a crisis. One of the rules of effective communication is to respect each other’s time by deciding to include them in an email communication only when necessary.
Internal communication strategy is required in both a large corporation, as well as a small enterprise with only a few employees. Part of that strategy should be email policy. Effective email policy encourages positive, productive communication and not only protects the business entity from legal liability and security breaches, but also serves as a guideline for adequate email communication. Though it may seem obvious to the manager what effective email communication is, others might not share that opinion and that is why guidelines should be in place.
There are managers who never turn on automatic replies when they are unable to access their mailbox which inevitably leads to an overloaded Inbox. As per the rules of effective communication, it is proper etiquette to set up an out of office reply any time a manager is unable to check emails during regular work hours. Whether he/she is going on a vacation for several weeks or just busy for the day while attending an offsite meeting, an audit, or an industry event, an OOO (out-of-office) message is appropriate.
The more emails you send, the more you will receive. If the manager is not modeling good email practice, they cannot expect others to follow.
Experts advise managers to establish a rule for themselves that they should send emails only when they are required. Emails should not be used as a surrogate chat service with one-word messages (such as “Thanks”). On the other side, email is not a communication tool for solving complex issues. Managers should avoid going back and forth in an endless trail of emails over one subject. Instead, it is recommended to set up a meeting or a call and discuss.
Email overload is usually just a symptom of a larger issue. Lack of clear and efficient protocols create confusing email communication. If an organization has vague decision-making processes and people are not sure who oversees a certain task, they will probably overwhelm everyone’s Inbox with emails and meeting requests. Another serious issue behind too many emails could be that the manager simply has too much on his/her plate. Ineffective resource allocation, as well as lack of task delegation will result in overburdening the manager’s Inbox.
Despite many methods of exchanging information available nowadays, emails are still unavoidable. The total number of business and consumer emails sent and received per day is forecast to grow to over 347 billion by the end of 2023. Nevertheless, this does not mean that a manager should struggle with a cluttered Inbox. Therefore it is important to look at the root causes of the problem and address them in order to achieve operational efficiency.
You are as busy as your Inbox is. If you read this article and recognized some of your own problems, perhaps it is time to think about outsourcing some of your work. Freeing up your Inbox and your schedule to do some real work is possible with an extra pair of hands to help you. That help can come in the form of a service provider.
Zenos is an administrative and marketing support provider. This organization helps small and medium sized enterprises streamline their business by taking care of their non-core activities, at competitive costs, with a flexible and relaxed, stress-free, Zen-approach. Get in touch today to discuss if they can be of any help to you. Feel free to contact Ena Fejzagic Livancic at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Zenos: Make time for your business. We will do the paperwork.