Email Productivity
How to be more efficient in written communications

Do's (best managment practices)
(From E-mail at the workplace)

General recommendations for businesses

1. Companies must consider e-mail as a management issue of strategic importance. There's no doubt that using this communication medium properly helps save time and money, but as we have already seen, in some cases it can be very unproductive. Organizations must promote spaces for "meeting and exchange" where employees can voice their concerns as senders and recipients, share their experiences in their daily work, establish opportunities for improvement, and receive coaching. The associated financial costs have such an impact that the topic needs to be discussed at all levels in the company, specially in upper management.

2. Companies must implement specific training and coaching programs for employees on e-mail communication. Training is needed on the factors that determine the productivity of e-mail, as well as on good writing skills with a journalistic style. People also need to be trained on the efficient use of time and on methods to organize their work.

3. Companies must establish comprehensive written norms on the corporate use of e-mail ("e-Standrads"), to guide positively employees on the good practices expected of them. However, these internal policies must not only establish what people "shouldn't do" and the sanctions involved, as usually happens. They must neither be biased by the technological or security issues of e-mail. When speaking of the duties of employees regarding e-mail, e-standards must highlight individual advantages for fulfilling them (essential for the success of their "internal marketing").

(See more best managment practices included in Email at the workplace book at Google Books)

Additional recommendations for managers

1. Do not communicate and promote e-Standards only through e-mails or as a formality. Use all communication channels available to sensitize and reinforce employee's commitment on this issue, and don't expect them to learn to use e-mail with the manual of norms and procedures. They need ample and detailed training on its risks, their rights, responsibilities, and the consequences of the improper use of this tool.

2. Don't expect a single individual or department to be responsible of overseeing compliance to corporate policies on the use of e-mail. Managers and supervisors must provide support to monitor and model employee's behaviors because otherwise good practices will not be adopted in a participative manner. Remember, some bosses usually are the main rule-breakers, and their inconsistency doesn't make it easy for employees to adopt e-Standards.

3. Don't use e-mails to give bad news or fire an employee. Remember that this channel doesn't have the communicational advantages of body language, facial expression or tone of voice. Employees feel more respected when bad news are given in person. Face-to-face meetings give employees the chance to ask questions, "digest" information better, and identify their options.

(See more best managment practices included in Email at the workplace book at Google Books)

Recommendations for senders

The following recommendations are based on the general conclusion drawn in Part 2 of the book: E-mail is an efficient communication channel when senders manage properly the content of the message, according to their intentions and the characteristics of the media:

1. Whenever we write mails, we must think if sending that e-mail is better than a telephone call or a face-to-face conversation. We see it in our daily work: Electronic mail communications flow better when messages contain pure and simple information, without emotional aspects that are susceptible to misinterpretation.

2. Avoid written discussions or "clarifications", because they always run the risk of being misinterpreted. Also, we generate a series of messages that become much longer than a telephone call or a face-to-face conversation. If we need to convey strong expressions, it is always better to use more direct communication channels, because people have difficulties "deciphering" correctly the written intentions and emotions of the sender.

3. Discussions are natural and necessary in any business, but it is more convenient to have them through other means, and send by e-mail only the agreements. This is a highly productive managerial practice, because it leaves written proof of what is most important of the work-related discussion, and valuable time is not wasted in e-mails that deteriorate relations between coworkers.

(See more best managment practices included in Email at the workplace book at Google Books)

Some recommendations about writing

1. Write just one e-mail for each topic you need to communicate. This has significant advantages:

It makes the "Subject" more specific and differentiated, and helps avoid using poor alternatives like: "Several issues", "FYI" or "In the text".

It simplifies the wording of the message, making it more understandable.

It facilitates follow-up of a specific topic in the list of mails in the inbox.

2. For all of the above reasons, if you must mention several issues in a single e-mail, it is better to group them under a specific subject. This will help you structure the information more efficiently for the recipient to consume it.

3. Write sentences of 15 to 20 words at the most, because they are easier to understand. This is because of the "scanning" we do when we read: we don't process letters or words individually, but group them at a glance. After fixation, our eyes "leap" to the next word or group of words. After repeating this once or twice, we pause to understand the phrase.

One of the most frequent mistakes in written communication is using very long sentences with too many comments. Very long sentences result from a poor use of punctuation and from writing as we speak. When readers cannot identify pauses, it is more difficult to grasp the main idea and differentiate it from secondary ones.

(See more best managment practices included in Email at the workplace book at Google Books)

(Fragment from E-mail at the workplace by Juan Carlos Jimenez. See it at Google Books).

Are we aware of how we use e-mail at workplace?


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Do's (best managment practices)



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