Email has been around since 1972. It’s an essential part of communication today. Which is why it’s so frustrating that, after all these years, there’s not some definitive list of email protocols. And I’m not just talking about “typing in all caps means you’re shouting”. I’m referring to when is it okay to send an email.
According to a report from McKinsey Global Institute, workers spend on average 28 percent of their time each week reading and answering email. A full-time employee (working 40 hours a week) spends over a day of their workweek on email. Wow! When we talk about making work more engaging, wouldn’t it be nice to give employees some of that time back?
I realize we’ll never eliminate email. But we can get better at using it. I wish I could remember where, but I heard a speaker recently say that there are three situations (aka “the 3 D’s”) when it’s okay to send an email:
- DATA. This makes sense to me. We can send people data to review or analyze prior to a meeting. People can receive the data or information that they need to get their job done. The challenge is making sure we send data to the right people. And in the right timeframe.
- DECISIONS. We can send people emails to ask for permission or authorization to do something. We can send emails after sending data to ask a person for their opinion or decision about something. This is a good way to communicate if you want to give someone time to think prior to deciding.
- DELIGHT. When I think of delight, my mind goes to announcements like “Please congratulate Jose on his promotion to marketing manager.” Or “Leonard has our bowling team t-shirts in his office. So, stop by and pick yours up.” A delightful situation is one where a celebratory announcement is being made.
When we think about the emails that we send to others, does it fall into one of these categories?
Here’s the thing, though – in examining my own emails, I could immediately see how data, decisions, and delight are very open to interpretation. I can also see how companies could use the 3 D’s as a starting point toward developing internal definitions about how email should be used.
Organizations could use the 3 D’s in orientation and onboarding to talk about the best way to communicate within the organization. HR could use data and decision emails to communicate with employees about benefits. Managers could learn how to use delight effectively and appropriately to recognize employees.
The 3 D’s could be the start to defining email protocols. It’s true, they need some definition. However, the results could be fantastic. Less email. Less frustration. More engagement.2