Help your employees unplug with a summer email slimdown

America is known as a ‘no vacation nation,’ but employers can alleviate stress by respecting inboxes and fostering a culture that encourages workers to disconnect.

What’s a relaxing vacation without a few dozen work emails?

In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s getting harder to switch off, even at the beach. A recent study found almost half of employees “feel obligated to check in with work while on vacation.” Millennials are especially tethered to their devices.

More hours worked do not mean greater productivity. American workers put in more hours—33.6 per week on average—than the four European countries boasting higher productivity. This fuels the United States’ reputation as a “no vacation nation.” The flood of work-related correspondence is a prime culprit.

What can employers do to encourage employees to unplug from their devices and cut back on emails? Here are some tips:

  • Establish a culture where workers do not feel obligated to check in. Some employers have introduced “embargoed contact policies,” which state that colleagues must not contact their co-workers—no matter how small the request. This is legislated in certain countries.
  • Discourage leaders from emailing outside work hours. Evening and weekend missives from higher-ups make other workers feel guilty if they don’t respond right away.
  • Create an email charter or agreement aimed at reducing the number of internal emails. Ask staff to comply, explaining they will benefit from fewer interruptions.
  • Think twice before hitting “reply all.” It’s highly likely you ought to reply only to the original sender (and maybe one or two others). Email only those who really need to know.
  • Could your message be delivered in person or over the phone, rather than via email? Quick conversations save time and prevent confusion.
  • Cut the email thread. Excise irrelevant fluff before you respond.
  • Open-ended emails that ask “your thoughts?” are often better handled through direct conversation. If it must be by email, offer multiple choice options to help with decision-making.
  • Keep it short, tidy and clear. Proofread before pressing send; shorten whenever possible. Treat the subject line as a headline so the recipient can determine whether the message is relevant. State a clear purpose of why you’re sending the email and what action is required.
  • Explore options other than email for internal communications. For example, round up all your non-urgent content and condense it into a weekly or monthly newsletter. Tools such as alerts, tickers and screensavers can reduce inbox clutter and be scheduled to run during certain times.

Make sure your colleagues enjoy a proper break this summer—and minimize the email barrage for those taking up the slack.

Chris Leonard is CEO of SnapComms, a New Zealand-based internal communications company.

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