As it appeared in the Daily Nation on May 14th 2019
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu
Emails have become so embedded into both our personal and work lives. Billions of emails are sent and received every day. Most of these emails are sent from one person to another while others are automatically generated from systems that hold our email addresses. In business, it is obvious that emails have become a very common channel of communication. Emails are used for internal communication as well as for communication with the external world of customers, suppliers and partners. Most of us spend many hours a day managing important and not so important work-related emails. We receive, act and respond to emails from others as well as send emails. A 2012 study by McKinsey showed that the average worker spent 13 hours a week handling emails. In 2018, the fourth annual Consumer Email Survey showed that we are spending an average of 3.1 hours a day checking work email. As a result, many feel overwhelmed by emails at the workplace.
As the number of emails sent and the amount of time spent handling them continues to grow, we must rethink our email handling techniques. Before we send out an email, how many of us pose to think about an alternative and easier way to communicate? Why not walk up to our colleague or pick up the phone and speak to our customer? Do all the email messages we receive need to be sent in the first place? Further, most of us handle emails in a very ad hoc manner. We are often tempted to look at emails at the spur-of-the-moment, in the wee hours of the morning and the night, while on vacation and even when driving further bewildering email handling. Despite often looking at our inboxes, most of us are not very good at responding to emails in a timely and efficient manner. As a result, emails have become a pain point to our colleagues, customers and even ourselves.
At a recent conversation with my client representative, I convinced her not to send customer survey emails on a Friday night. I was worried that most such email might end up not attracting the attention they required. In my work life, I have learnt that it is more effective to send work-related emails during office hours. In addition, basic communication etiquette is not always evident. Courtesy is required in our choice of words and tone of voice in emails. We often fail to keep emails short and to the point. Spam emails are also a common phenomenal that organizations need to address. Almost every month I receive an email from a representative from my insurance company trying to sell me the same insurance products I have. Bad email habits, poorly managed inbox and an email overload have the potential to negatively affect our productivity. Organizations therefore need to be more cautious in their use and handling of emails.
Managed effectively, emails are a worthwhile business communications and marketing tool. I am a strong believer that work can still get done without a load of emails criss-crossing our offices internally. Many of us need to devise a workable plan to better manage our inbox and stay away from detrimental email habits. What will you do today to improve your email communication?
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy