Email has revolutionized the way we work, mostly for the better. The days of inter-office memos and fielding never-ending phone calls are gone. That’s mostly a good thing. However, email poses its own challenges. It’s so easy to send an email, they’re often misused. We also spend an inordinate amount of our workday answering them. Did you know the average Canadian working in an office occupation spends 30% of their day answering emails? That’s a lot. So let’s band together and eliminate some unnecessary emails like the ones below.
1. the ‘how are you?’ email
The how are you email could also be called a small talk email. These occur when someone feels like they must exchange pleasantries before they’ll get to the point of what they really want to ask. They’ll ask how you are, or talk about the weather, or something equally meaningless as a means of starting a conversation, with no other context to the email. This type of conversation starter is even more common over instant message. Usually you’re better off just getting to the point, especially if it’s someone you talk to often. If you haven’t spoken to the person in a while, you can open with pleasantries, but make sure to add the reason for your communication lower down in the email. It’ll save everyone time.
2. the one-word ‘thanks’ email
This is probably one of the most common emails on this list, and most of us have probably sent them. Yet in the vast majority of cases they’re absolutely unnecessary. In real life it’s rude not to say thank you when someone does a favour for you, so we tend to apply that same logic to emails. However, the two aren’t really equivalent. The person receiving your thanks email has to open, read and file away your ‘thanks.’ It’s a small thing, but if it happens many times per day that time can add up. Unless you’re a terrible, ungrateful person, most people will assume you’re thankful. You don’t have to say so every single time. Save it for special circumstances, or add something else to the message. If there’s nothing else to add, you probably don’t need to send an email.
3. the ‘I need a favour’ email
The ‘I need a favour’ email can be a tricky one. If it’s from your boss, or someone of authority, you’re probably going to have to live with it. The real problem with ‘I need a favour’ emails is when they’re abused. Sticky situations happen and it’s nice to help out when you can. However if you have a coworker who has a bad habit of dropping things on you last minute and demanding you help them out, that’s an issue. No one likes to receive emails that demand help. If you need a favour, ask rather than tell, and offer some kind of reciprocation. For instance, if you need a shift covered, offer to cover the person in return, at a later date.
4. the ‘why didn’t you tell me in person’ email
If you’ve ever sent an email to someone who sits at the desk next to you, when you could have just told them in person, this is directed to you. Okay, yes, there are times when you need to send an email to someone in your direct vicinity, such as when there are multiple stakeholders in the conversation, or when you need a paper (or email) trail of the conversation. However if the request is a short, one-time thing, why not just ask in person? A little human interaction never killed anyone (that we know of.)