The following guidelines have been developed by the University Health and Wellbeing Task Group in response to feedback that e-mail was seen as a key source of work stress. However, it should be noted that the nature of the stress can be very individualistic. These guidelines seek to offer a way forward for these differing needs.
On a normal working day
In an ideal world you should try and check your emails a maximum of two or three times a day. First thing and last thing – and maybe part way through the day if you really feel you need to. Constantly checking for emails can disrupt your thought patterns and writing a response can interfere with you achieving what you had planned for the day.
Sending emails overnight
For some people, sending emails in the evening or even in the early hours can suit their work/life style. However, this can lead to stress in the receivers. If you like working this way, consider using the delayed delivery option so although you are writing the email at 2am, it doesn’t actually leave you outbox until the time you specify e.g. 8am. This is also a really useful tool to use if an email needs to be sent whilst you are on leave or on a non-work day. You can find the delay delivery button in options on the new email toolbar or seek advice from the ICT service desk by phoning ext. 7500 or clicking on the icon on your university computer home screen.
Expecting a response the same day
We all want answers quickly, however, to expect responses the same day becomes habit forming and can be really stressful for the receivers. It can also lead to you not receiving a well thought through response if someone has to reply before they have had sufficient reflection time. If you really need an instant answer, try picking up the phone and holding a conversation – or if it’s feasible, take a walk and hold a face to face conversation instead.
Clarity of Title
Make sure the subject of the email is clear in the subject box – and identify if the email requires action. This can help the receiver prioritise their mail. In addition, in some instances emails can become a really long chain and the content can bear little relationship to the subject title by the end. Consider ending the chain and starting afresh, or refresh the subject box.
If you reply to an email that has a long chain of responses, or forward such an email – check down through the chain to avoid inadvertently sending an email you might regret.
Reply to All
Do you really need to include everyone in your email?
Asking for a Read Receipt
Some people find the use of read receipts intrusive, and they can fill your inbox up too. Consider how important having a read receipt is to you, or if a delivery receipt would be sufficient.
Going on leave
To have a real break from work, the ideal scenario is to put your out-of-office on and avoid accessing your emails whilst you are away. Clearly identify the period you are off, make sure you give an alternative University email or phone number people can contact if something is really urgent, and identify you will come back as soon as is feasible after your return.
However, for some people this could be a source of stress and checking emails is a way of reducing their stress. If this is you, then you need to put a different strategy in place. Try and check your emails just once a day, or every other day whilst you are away. In addition, even if you read them, why not try waiting to answer them until you return from leave. With your out-of-office on, people know there will be a delay in you responding.
Everyone responds to emails in a different way, and the key thing is to respect those differences. Don’t expect others to feel the same way about sending and receiving emails as you do. Make allowances for those differences and help reduce email stress for all.