Love it or hate it, email isn’t going anywhere — especially not at work. Businesses continue to rely on email, which remains the most popular form of workplace communication, according to a study by Adobe of how workers use, check, and feel about work email. The results offer has some insights that can help entrepreneurs use email more effectively. Here’s what the study uncovered and how it can improve your company’s internal email communications.
You might expect younger employees to be the most indifferent to email of all generations. Surprisingly, however, the survey found that people age 25 to 34 spent the most time checking their email of any age group. These consumers spend 6.4 hours a day checking email, compared to 5.8 hours among 18- to 24-year-olds, and 5.2 hours among those over 35.
In addition to checking to both personal and work email more often, the 18-to 24-year-old generation has somewhat of an obsession with their work email. For example, 81% check it on vacation (more than any other age group), 81% check it before they get to the office (also more than any other age group), and 68% strive to get their email inbox to “Inbox Zero”(that is, the Holy Grail of having no unread emails) compared to 55% of survey respondents overall.
A Changing Approach to Work Email
Email has reigned as the number-one preferred method of workplace communication for the past four years of Adobe’s survey. This year, however, face-to-face communication tied with email for the number-one spot. Is email on the downslope?
Not according to survey respondents. Although 20% think their work email usage will decrease in the future (up from 15% in the previous survey), 25% believe their work email use will actually increase going forward.
Despite the rise of instant messaging tools such as Slack, only 35% of work communication takes place this way, while 72% takes place by email.
However, employees maybe escaping the grip of work email a little bit. For instance, 28% say they never check work emails while on vacation—up from 23% in the previous survey.
4 Tips on Writing Effective Emails
Overall, the mean percentage of work emails that people open is 77%. What can you and your employees do to ensure that your emails are among that number? Here are some suggestions based on survey results.
1. Don’t be Passive Aggressive
When asked what common email phrases they dislike the most, “Not sure if you saw my last email” was the clear winner; one-fourth of respondents detest this phrase. Other unpopular phrases:
“Per my last email” – 13%
“Per our conversation” – 11%
“Any update on this?” – 11%
In general, the takeaway is to avoid passive aggressive terminology.
2. Keep it Brief
Some 85% of respondents regularly check email on smartphones; just 69% do so on desktops or laptops. “Having to scroll too much to read the entire email” is the most annoying thing about reading emails on a smartphone, cited by 20% of respondents; “Too much text” is close behind, cited by 17%. If you want people to actually read your email, don’t annoy them with lengthy tomes.
3. Set Expectations for Email Communications and Etiquette
As owner of your business, you should set the standard for how to use email, as well as proper email etiquette. When should email be used in place of a phone call or in-person communication? One approach is to use email for communication that requires maintaining a record of the interaction — such as a status update on a project, providing feedback on a project or asking a (brief) question. To reduce the volume of email, you can also set expectations around things like when to use “reply all” or who should be copied on an email.
4. Use Technology to Improve the Email Experience
Most people don’t take full advantage of all the tools available to help them weed out irrelevant emails, catch important emails and generally manage their email better. “Stronger spam filters” are cited by 26% of survey respondents as the technology that has improved their email experience the most in the past few years. Also on the list: email category filtering, smart auto replies, and voice assistants that respond to emails for you. Explore what tools are available in your chosen a work email technology and help employees learn to use them.
What about Inbox Zero?
Is it really possible to get to having no unread mails in your inbox? For 55% of employees, the answer is yes. However, employees age 18 to 34 are the most likely to actually accomplish this goal, suggesting that the more responsibilities you have at work, the less likely you are to ever achieve Inbox Zero. No wonder 26% of employees age 35 and older say it’s “impossible.”