Emails were the bane of my previous workplace. They would stream in throughout the day, regardless of the hour. Quite often they would come in late at night and some over-enthusiastic colleagues (including my erstwhile boss) would respond to them pronto. In fact there was a time I too would be conscientious in responding to them regardless of the urgency. Those were the bad old days.
Nevertheless, emails can be and is still a very useful basic tool. It is the manner we use it which determines if it becomes a bane, pain or a very useful servant. While it can be a blunt tool, discarding it or even using it just sparingly can mean we are short changing ourselves and depriving ourselves of an efficient and effective communication tool.
Firstly, it is a fantastic tool for communicating data with some very quick commentary notes. Whereas I can for example send you a text with my colleague’s phone number, if I want to tell you that this colleague usually doesn’t look at his text message during work hours because he is on the road a lot and only checks his mobile for messages once every few hours and it is therefore better to give yourself at least half a day before expecting a response but if you need a quick response you may wish to call his wife who he calls every half an hour because she is very pregnant I might send you an email instead to convey all that extra bits of information.
I may also want to tell you that this colleague also has some quirks – it would helpful if you sent him that text either closer to noon or closer to the end of the day because that’s when he is most likely to check his mobile and he gets wound up if he checks his mobile and finds a message which is several hours old. Ideally however, this colleague prefers an email instead, which he checks around 6pm every day for sure and at the very least.
All of the above information may also be required by several other people. I know you will want that information straight away but Johnny only needs it later in the morning and Tom, maybe in the arvo. Instead of calling you now I’d send you an email and copy Johnny and Tom in. This way I spend one third of my time compared to if I called you, Johnny and Tom.
I can also forward that email to anyone else who may want to know the best way to contact my colleague. I can do this anytime and to as many people as I like and I can’t catch my intended recipient at a time he or she is available to speak with me – they can retrieve and read that information at their leisure and convenience. Finally I also have a record of what sent and to whom I sent as well as when I sent them.
We can get a lot done through emails that way. At the very least we keep in touch, rope every relevant person into the loop, maintain a sense of momentum in the line of communications and stay abreast of things. Everyone in the loop share a common platform of information and everyone can expect all in the email loop, to have that common knowledge. If we continuously provide information and commentary through that channel within that community, that community can become informed, vibrant and communicative.