We are all guilty. We shoot off email after email when a face-to-face or phone conversation in some situations would save time and have greater influence. Think about how many times you hit “reply” or “forward” today. Now calculate how much time was wasted going back and forth trying to explain what you meant to say in your prior email message.
Independent research by Atos Origin, an international information technology services company, highlighted that the average employee spends 40 percent of their workweek dealing with internal emails that add no value to the business (http://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2012/dec/17/ban-staff-email-halton-housing-trust). In short, your colleagues only start working on anything of value beginning on Wednesday each week.
Another study by the respected McKinsey Global Institute states the average worker spends two-and-a-half hours writing emails every day (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2181680/Youve-got-mail-The-average-office-worker-spend-half-hours-writing-emails.html). A poll found that more than a quarter of most employees’ time is wasted sending, receiving or sorting through emails instead of doing their jobs. That means that every year workers spend some 81 workdays hunched over their computers, often emailing other people in the office.
By comparison, employees spent just 6.4 hours per week, or 14 percent of their time, ”communicating and collaborating internally.”
We are slaves to our inbox. Checking emails 24/7 has become a habit, making face-to-face or phone conversations a lost art.
Don’t get me wrong. Email is an essential tool for communicating quick messages that need to be documented. The question is, do we put enough thought into what is the best communication medium for influencing action?
Our approach to navigating through the clutter of our clients’ busy lives is:
- When in doubt, invite a face-to-face or phone conversation. If we question at all how our client may receive our email message, we pick up the phone and talk live.
- If we haven’t received a response from our client after sending two emails, it is time to pick up the phone.
Think before you select “send.” Take this quick three-question test to prevent you from becoming a victim of miscommunication and jeopardizing your relationships.
- Ask your listeners, “What is the best way to communicate?”
- Which communication medium will have the greatest influence on your listeners?
- Once in writing, always in writing. If your email message were posted on the home page of MSN.com, would it build or damage your reputation?
If you ever struggle with the “right” answer to these questions, ask for constructive feedback from a peer you trust.
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