Recently I spoke to a group of Managing Partners from various small to medium sized solicitor firms throughout the country. One of the significant issues they identified that was causing them stress was emails. They are experiencing greater volumes of emails and were recognizing the need to adopt a strategy to manage them.
Devising an email policy could be a useful exercise as is thinking about the 4 Ds!
A workplace email policy could address expectations around :
Speed of response -do we need to respond right away to every email? Could you send an automatic response to say the email has been received and will be responded to within a certain time frame?
Out of hours– most employees would suggest emails received after hours should be left to working hours -unless it is urgent. However, if a manager emails over a weekend then we may feel it needs to be responded to?
Usage of emails-there needs to be clarity around usage of emails and we don’t want to be caught using work emails for personal usage or vice versa like the situation Hilary Clinton found herself in. Also, there may be sensitive client information or discussions about staff issues which may be more wisely left to a face to face meeting as office emails are often accessible by senior admin staff.
Client Files -whilst your office may be operating a paperless system, many are still using hard copies and it’s important to ensure relevant email documentation gets filed properly.
There are probably more protocol issues and it could be very useful to compile a policy with your colleagues at one of your team meetings.
The 4 D’s
A very useful tool is to remember the 4d’s:
Delete ! Especially if we are being cc’d. Its good to keep our inbox clear and we don’t need e-mails where we have been included for information purposes only.
Deal with it -if it requires an immediate response or can be quickly dealt with then it’s a good plan to just deal with it on the spot.
Delegate -this is a helpful one as it gets it off your desk and it’s being addressed. It’s important to remember we can do this.
Defer -we may, of course, need to come back later to something and we can usefully then set up other mail folders with different priority rating and then methodically go through these.
Other Practical Tips.
Some people like to keep notifications on and check emails as they come in. This may be a waste of time if in the middle of a meeting as we cant actually respond anyhow. Choose what suits you best.
We may need to send fewer emails ourselves and instead decide to ring people or meet them in person, this is an old-fashioned and effective way to communicate!
Perhaps choose to cc people less, we won’t be cluttering their inbox and we may be able to hold the information until the next meeting.
Monica Haughey delivers 1-1 support, training and group facilitation to workplace settings June 20th, 2018 www.monicahaughey.ie