Managing Team Emails

Updated: 19 Feb, 2013 | Annie Andre

The McKinsey Global Institute recently found that the average knowledge worker spends 28 % of the work-week either writing, reading or responding to email. A big chunk of that is internal team communication. It follows that part of keeping your inbox organized is therefore about coordinating email styles within your team.

Statistics show that on average, people can process about 100 email messages an hour. If you and your team were on the same page about how many emails to exchange and when to do it, you could dramatically increase your efficiency in getting through them. Many companies have email providers (e.g. Zimbra) or applications (e.g. Sanebox) that are geared to helping teams coordinate via email. Others put out company-wide memos on email etiquette. But there are smaller steps that your team can take to make things more efficient on a project-by-project basis.

Yes, telling your colleagues to stop sending so many emails can get awkward. Setting up ground rules, the same way most of us do at meetings, is an easy way to set the standard without anyone taking it personally. Here are a few things you can agree on with your team to make your inbox more manageable.

  1. Set clear communication timelines: If you take an hour every evening to get through your emails, ask your team members to communicate non-urgent questions or issues in a single consolidated email before that time. Going through all of them at once will help you focus and help your teammates get the answers they need in a comprehensive manner.
  2. Set deadlines in the subject lines: This helps you prioritize your emails quickly and gives your teammate assurance that their emails will get a timely response. It applies to emails with either scheduling or action items. For example, you can try “Blog Post – for Review by 2/1” or “Meeting Confirmed – 3/17.”
  3. Standardize subject lines: You can use key words or phrases to describe what’s in your message. Here at Prialto, our teams often use the term “tweet,” followed by an update in their subject lines. This lets the others know that the message is “FYI” and doesn’t require a response. Or we’ve also seen “EOM” (end-of-message) used in subject lines to indicate that the whole thought is in the subject line. This lets the receivers know that they don’t even need to open the email.
  4. Coordinate your filters: If the entire team is working on the same project, pick a term that would be included in the subject line every time (for example, “Project X” or “Annual Report”) that would allow you all to filter the messages in the same way. That will make sure your inbox categories are sorted from the moment the email arrives.
  5. Use group lists: Simplify everyone’s job by creating contact lists that include all team members on a particular project. The contact lists should be available on the company’s global address list, so that anyone on the team can use them. Having these lists ensures that nobody gets left off of important communication. Not to mention, nobody needs to waste time running down the project list to gather names every time they send an email!

Want more ideas? Read about the no-emotion rule for internal emails at Algentis.

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