Emails are a key communication tool at work. Do they help or hinder your internal communications though? Poor quality emails can reduce productivity and efficiency, so it’s important for all companies and managers to review the style and effectiveness of their emails. Here are seven sets of tips to help improve your email communication.
Do you need to email?
Firstly, consider whether an email is actually necessary or appropriate. Would a telephone call be more effective? Can you speak face-to-face? Some email chains lose their focus, cause confusion and take up considerable time. A simple phone call or conversation could be the more efficient and clearer option. Alternatively, there are a range of websites that aim to foster a collaborative approach to projects or act as an online memo board. These can keep communications more focused. Multiple employees can leave notes or suggestions on a specific project board and a record of the communications can be kept in a central place. This centralisation may be more effective than trawling through an inbox or deleted items for an email or replying at the wrong part of an email chain.
Commend and express gratitude
Especially with colleagues you have worked with for a long time, it can be easy to think that sending a quick, basic reply is the most effective way of communicating. It may save time and be concise. However, the effects on morale need to be considered carefully. A short, blunt reply may seem perfectly reasonable. However, can you guarantee that the recipient would view it in the same tone and context as you? For instance, if an employee asks whether an idea of theirs could be good, could they interpret your “Yes ok” as agreeing reluctantly? Would they feel appreciated? A reply saying “Great, yes, thank you for thinking of it” would give commendation and thanks, yet still be concise and efficient. Even if you do not like their idea, saying “Thanks for the suggestion, we haven’t got the budget right now but keep up the good ideas” would still show commendation and appreciation.
Always say please and thank you
If you are asking for something, always say please and thank you. Omitting these niceties can have an adverse effect on morale, and cause resentment and procrastination. You have to show that you mean it for it to be effective. For instance, writing “Can I have that report please.” could appear passive aggressive. A more encouraging request could be “If you can send me that report please that would be most appreciated, thank you.” Friendly requests may also mean that colleagues are prepared to go the extra mile when you need something urgently because they know that you value their time and effort.
Informative out of office replies
“OOO” does the job of saying that you’re not at work. To improve efficiency and email communication, make the most of your out of office reply by adding relevant information. Details such as the date and time you return, who will be covering your work, whether you are checking emails still, if someone else is checking your inbox, and how you can be contacted about anything urgent will help ensure that important work is covered. A friendly tone will also make the out of office reply less abrupt and disappointing.
Use bullet points or headings
Bullet points or headings are often used in documents. However, they can be forgotten in emails. This can lead to long paragraphs and unclear emails that take longer to read. Use headings as much as possible when writing longer or multi-topic emails. Make sure that sections are clear so that if a colleague needs to refer to your email again they can go to the relevant point quickly without having to re-read unrelated paragraphs.
Employees often spend time writing an email, then quickly add a subject as an afterthought before sending. It’s wise to take time to write a relevant and specific subject line. A generic, nondescript subject will hamper communications if a colleague needs to find your email again, or misreads your email because they have a different topic in mind. Make sure the subject is succinct but gives the reader an accurate description of the email.
Reflect company culture
Use emails as an opportunity to reinforce your company ethos and branding. Consider how your core values should shape the tone and content of your company’s emails. Aim to have a consistent approach, with signatures, greetings and goals being shared across the company. Find ways to make your signatures useful for internal communications by adding links to intrawebs, newsletters or social media. Consult with employees to find out what they value the most about email communications and what habits affect their morale or productivity, and aim to use this feedback to improve internal communications.
Informative emails that demonstrate a company’s values, show respect to colleagues and improve morale can help to create a better company culture and improved efficiency. Take time to make sure that your work emails are clear, motivating and relevant in order to drive progress and reflect a positive impression of you and the company.