Email is a wonderful tool, but for some people - the really busy ones - it can become overwhelming. When I was the department chair, even if I spent all day on emails, I would never finish the day with less emails in my inbox than I started with. My friend and colleague Greg Molecke devised the following email policy for our department. I found it was actually very helpful. Greg and I hope you do too!
Email Timing and Management Etiquette
1. Downtime Etiquette – You should be having email-free evenings (17.30pm-8.30am), weekends, and holidays. Use send later function if you have to work out of standard hours.
2. Email-Free During Work Etiquette – It is prefectly OK and encouraged to block out larger blocks of time free of emails and meetings to get others things done.
3. Return from Vacation Etiquette – While on a longer vacation, consider adding to this phrase or similar to your Out of Office message: I will not be reading emails sent between [START DATE] and [END DATE]. If you need me to action or read something please resend after [END DATE], otherwise I may assume your query has been addressed by others. In my absence or for urgent matters, please contact [EMAIL address].
Email Efficiency Etiquette
4. Keep It Short Etiquette – Keep email short, use other channels for longer, complex issues.
5. Use Subject Line Only Emails Etiquette – Use acronym EOM (End of Message) to show your entire message is in the subject line and recipient does not need to open the email.
6. Useful Subject Line Etiquette – Help your colleagues by using subject line that is informative and can be used to search for messages. Also, you can use these acronyms: SA (Situational Awareness) or FYI (For Your Information), NYR+WHEN (Need Your Response + Today/ASAP/ End of Week/[Date]).
7. “No Reply Necessary” Etiquette – Give people permission to not reply to emails by adding NRN “no reply necessary” to the end of the message or in the subject line.
8. Address Email Last Etiquette – Complete your email before adding the To: addresses.
9. One Solver Only Etiquette – If you aren’t sure who to send a message to – send it to only your best guess.
10. Action Email Etiquette (CC Wisely Etiquette) – Aside from general announcements, only copy people on emails if there’s an action required by that person.
11. No Reply-All Etiquette – Similarly, avoid the “reply all” button unless absolutely necessary. Set up your email system so the default is reply not reply all.
12. Direct-To-Calendar-Invite Etiquette – Organize meetings directly through calendar invites. Check everyone’s availability in Outlook first. Subject = meeting’s purpose. Consider using MS Bookings or Calendly. Default to 15-minute meetings rather than 30-minute meetings.
13. Accept Calendar Invite Etiquette – When accepting a meeting, respond to the calendar invite first. An accepted calendar invite replaces the need for email confirmation of a meeting.
14. “No Human Google: Etiquette or “It’s in the handbook” Etiquette – Whenever you send a question related to a policy or procedure, signal to people that you aren’t using them as a human google by including a line that states where you have already looked. Dont forget a Google search for “[what you’re looking for]” works surprisingly well!
15. No Task-Processing Etiquette – Avoid emails documenting your progress on each step or task.
Email Social/Emotional Etiquette
16. Recognize Each Other’s Humanity Etiquette – When initiating a new discussion, lead with a brief “small-talk” line that recognizes your shared humanity with the other person.
17. In-Person Difficult Conversations Etiquette – Sensitive, complex, or difficult conversations should be done face-to-face. Email comes off harsher and is too easy to be misinterpreted.
18. Cool-Off Etiquette – Never send an email when angry. Wait and cool off!
19. Task Reminder Etiquette – To check on the status of a task with someone or gently remind someone of an outstanding task, ask the person directly. There is no need to copy or go through the line manager in the first instance.
20. Don’t Assume Email is Private Etiquette – Do not assume that email you send is private. Do not put something in an email message that you would not want read by everybody.
21. BONUS! Leave Online Meetings Silently Etiquette – Avoid texting/chatting “thank you” or “great meeting” at the end of Teams meetings. Simply say, or physically wave, goodbye.