Working together: E-mail Protocols

Ortiz_ James226x170As we continue on our road to excellence, I am addressing the topic of e-mail protocol in this blog. All of us appreciate the great flexibility and expediency of this medium of communication, but we are all too familiar with its drawbacks such as the enormous quantity of messages, the constant intrusion into our personal time, the large number of irrelevant or just FYI email, and the long chains of e-mail “conversations”. Below, I provide some guidelines for the use of e-mail in our office with the intent to continue taking full advantage of the strengths of e-mail while mitigating the drawbacks mentioned above.

I expect people in the office to check e-mail regularly during working hours, for our office that window is from 07:00 AM to 06:00 PM. Please try to minimize the e-mail after these hours to provide ourselves with personal after-hour time. During the weekend, I will encourage e-mail communication be limited to items that require a quick response. I expect people to respond to these e-mails within 24 hours. This means that I expect people to scan e-mail once a day during these times. Any urgent items should be handled via a phone call and I believe should be rare.

Regarding the volume of e-mail, I would like to encourage everyone to pause before sending an e-mail to review the distribution and ask themselves if all the people listed need to be included. For example, don’t assume that because the names were included in a previous forwarded e-mail that everybody downstream needs to be included. Also consider alternatives to sending e-mail (specifically with large attachments) when the information can be posted in share drives or web pages.

Also, please be sensitive to the fact that e-mail as vehicle of communication has its limits. Long chains of e-mails “conversations” are an indication that a face-to-face or a teleconference is needed to resolve the issue.

I know that I am just scratching the surface of this topic but I feel that if we start here, we can harvest the “low hanging fruit” in this area and work more effectively together.

As always, please let me know your thoughts.
James N. Ortiz, PhD

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