Make email work for you
Overwhelming, relentless and potentially damaging. Who would have thought that something as simple and helpful as email could conjure these words? But, when we try to clear our inboxes like a fairground ‘hit the mole’ game, only to see the messages flood back in, no wonder we feel so negatively. When we (or others) read or answer an email in anger, only to realise everything was taken out of context, the aftermath has to be dealt with.
But there is another way. It takes us, individually and collectively, to put simple ideas into practice and to stick to them. It also requires us to think and respond, rather than react, and to be motivated enough to want to stop this toxic cycle. Don’t get me wrong, email is an incredibly useful communication tool, but it needs to be managed properly.
Check out the following Fit2Communicate strategies to improve your relationship with email.
Help your school team create healthy relationships with email
The mental health and wellbeing of the school team is increasingly important as we go through constant change and experience increasing demands. Email often adds to this pressure. Many of us experience elevated blood pressure and heart rate when handling emails at work and unread emails serve as a major stress factor. And there is also anticipatory stress and expectation of answering after-hours emails that drains us. In addition, badly worded emails, especially about emotionally-charged topics, can cause confusion and conflict between school team members and parents, again increasing stress levels.
Then there is the ongoing compulsion to check your emails, sometimes when you really should be concentrating and, in the moment, focusing on your school colleagues or students.
This all leads to lost productivity and puts pressure on mental health and wellbeing, often when it can be avoided.
Set clear and healthy email standards
- Set standards to ensure the school team know when they are expected to read emails and in what timeframes they should respond.
- Role model good email practice including not sending or answering emails late at night, at weekends and when on holiday unless it is an emergency.
- Encourage people to limit the amount of times they check emails, to up to three points in the day and ideally when they are less likely to be distracted. This has been proven to be more effective than trying to grab moments throughout the day, between lessons.
- Recommend that people deactivate their email pop-ups to reduce distractions and stress – this applies to other non-essential messaging apps too – during school time.
- Prioritise emails that you send personally or as a school team by always indicating, in the subject line, if they are for information only or require action and by when the action is required.
- Don’t copy all – think before you send or respond to an email and only include the relevant people.
- Avoid blind copying people – it appears rather underhand and can go very wrong when people find out it has happened. If you need others to know about an email, forward it onto them.
- Ensure people know when email should and should not be used in your school. For example, don’t email across the room if you can get up and speak to someone instead. It also shouldn’t be relied on for high priority messages.
- Don’t assume people have read the email message unless you add a return receipt or ask for confirmation of understanding in the message.
- Provide training to ensure the school team know how to manage and organise their email, tips to save time, email etiquette and importantly how to write a good email, in terms of the tone, style and content.
- If you have provided teacher email addresses to parents, then manage the expectations of parents. They should have clear guidelines on what teachers should and should not be emailed about. We suggest creating an ‘Information Finder’ that includes regularly asked questions and answers. You can then direct people to the best person to answer their question while ensuring teachers can focus on teaching.
- Ensure teachers and the school team know your email communication standards. Don’t assume everyone knows what they should and shouldn’t say to parents and that the quality of message will be equally good from everyone. As above, training should be offered to ensure communication standards are understood and met, including GDPR implications.
- Have service levels for when you will respond to emails, which are understood by the school team and parents. Have automatic responses set up that let parents know when you’ll get back to them, so they don’t have to chase (and interrupt) you. Give them an urgent email address for high priority requests and ensure this mailbox is regularly checked.
- Have an agreed email signature for your school that everyone uses. This should include the person’s name, role, your address and phone number. You can also use this area to promote your website or latest event.
By taking control of your inbox and sticking to the strategies you have developed, you will be more productive and able to achieve a better work-life balance, with less stress. Time managed effectively equals more time to do the things you love doing in life!
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 07920 752192 or 07920 772642 if you have specific email problems on which you would like advice. We also offer a team workshop on email communication.
And click here for a PDF version of the below one page reminder you can print out and stick on your wall.