October 24, 2018

Avoid email fatigue with these tips

Stressed out by your inbox? Here are some ideas on how to use it better, and when not to use it at all.

Team Ceridian

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Whether you’re an intern or the CEO, you are tethered to work by email, a tool that was supposed to make your job easier, but instead has become one of the most stress-producing and loathed office activities. Welcome to the reality of the modern workplace.

Jacob Morgan, author of The Future of Work, says on average, employees check their emails 36 times an hour, and it takes them about 16 minutes to refocus on other tasks after they’ve dealt with their email. And with the advent of smartphones, email checking goes on long after employees leave the office. As Morgan writes in Forbes, “Now that employees can check and respond to email on their mobile devices, they are forever connected to the email overlords.”

John Pavlus of FastCompany once called email the “most reviled personal technology ever.”

Being unable to disconnect results in burnout, which can lead to decreased productivity and greater employee turnover. In fact, a growing trend is employment laws that give workers the “right to disconnect” and allow them to ignore work emails outside of typical working hours.  France passed a labour law that went into effect in January 2017 banning emails after hours,  and many companies have either implemented or are considering workplace policies that limit contacting employees during off-hours. 

 

Email may still be a useful and unifying tool for external communication with clients, vendors or partners, but limiting interoffice email even during work hours is becoming increasingly popular. One trick is to use different communication tools (such as social networking, internal blogs, instant messaging and team chat apps) for different purposes in the workplace. If you need rapid and ongoing communications, don’t email your colleagues to death. Instead, use messaging apps for fast and ongoing communication, real-time collaboration platforms for team projects or video chats for group meetings.

But even these productivity apps have contributed to the endless modern connectedness and can get overwhelming. Why not try going one step further? Set up a no-email day at work and talk to your colleagues instead. Research has shown that email is only 7% as effective as talking anyway, because we get much of the meaning of messages from intonation, facial expression and body language rather than words. You might find work to be more productive and more enjoyable.

Tips for managing email

  1. Keep it short and sweet: Messages that are between 50 and 125 words are most likely to get replies.
  2. Make timing count: Messages are most apt to get responses when they are sent at the start of working hours or lunchtime. You can write an email in off-hours but then use a scheduling option to send it later.
  3. Schedule your email use: Limit how often you check it, which will make you more productive and less stressed.
  4. Don’t “cc” so many people: The fewer emails you send, the fewer you’ll receive.
  5. Remember the delete button: Not all messages are important or need a response.

Related: Five hacks that will boost your productivity today

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