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Hardwood Executive

Putting email under the microscope

Earlier this year, a Wall Street Journal article by Andrew Blackman addressed the topic of “The Smartest Ways to Use Email at Work.” You may be surprised by what the experts had to report. Take a look, then decide what works for your company culture.

When to Reply
“In companies whose cultures emphasize speed of response, workers are more stressed, less productive, more reactive and less likely to think strategically. Handling emails after hours is also detrimental. People who receive an email during off hours may feel more pressure to respond, and those who do aren’t more efficient – they simply generate a higher volume of mail, without actually getting more work done.

On the other hand, one size doesn’t fit all. Preliminary findings from a new study of extroverts suggest that when they are working on routine tasks, being interrupted by an email notification might be good for them – the social stimulation may help those workers avoid boredom and complete their tasks more effectively.” (Dr. Emma Russell, Occupational Psychology, Kingston University, UK)

Best time to email is …
Early in the week and between 8 a.m. and Noon, according to Dr. Kristina Lerman, project leader at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute. “When faced with a screen packed with information, people tend to focus on what’s at the top. So, it follows that you want to time your email to correspond with when people are checking.”

‘“If I want to send an important email,” says Dr. Lerman, “I don’t do it on a Friday. I wait until Monday morning, so it’s much more likely to be at the top.”’

“It’s one of the longest standing pieces of conventional wisdom about email – all caps means you’re shouting. But new research suggests that isn’t always right. When used judiciously, a word or two in capital letters can provide emphasis, communicate urgency or inject humor. So, although typing a whole email in capitals is a no-no, there’s nothing wrong with using all caps in smaller doses.

Context matters, of course, and there are formal situations in which these techniques would be inappropriate. But the broad lesson is that within teams, a little playfulness and stylistic fluidity can go a long way.” (Dr. Erika Darics, lecturer in Applied Linguistics, Aston University, UK)

Using emoticons
“Studies have found that in business communication, emoticons and emojis can be useful mostly for internal communication within teams. When you’re using emoticons with strangers, on the other hand, they can have unintended consequences.

  • Ella Glikson, a postdoctoral fellow at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business, conducted an experiment with fellow researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel and the University of Amsterdam to examine the effect of using a smiley face on first impressions in a business context.
  • They conducted three experiments in which they showed participants various business emails, some written in plain text and others with emoticons added. They discovered that people viewed the writers who used smileys as less competent, and were less likely to share information with them.”

The bottom line from Dr. Darics:
‘“Good email communication is not about our intentions, but about the meaning that other people assign to what we write. Good communicators will challenge themselves and ask –this is what I meant, but is this what the other person will get?”’

Information source: The Wall Street Journal