Archive for July 21, 2010

E-mail: The great blight on productivity

July 21, 2010

I received an entertaining e-mail from a colleague at another local authority this morning and thought I must share:

The council in question had decided that they had a problem with there being too much e-mail.

As the council said:

Recognising this, our senior management team asked the ???? communications network to consider ways of reducing email traffic.  In response, the network members have developed an email protocol, that has been endorsed by SMT, which all staff are requested to follow

Then followed their most amusing e-mail protocol which I reproduce in all it’s bureaucratic glory… Enjoy:

E-mail protocol

  • Phone someone or go to talk to them rather than use email.
  • Open your Outlook box a couple of times a day rather than leave it open all day.
  • Do not set up your email so that an automated receipt is requested.  If you need an acknowledgement, put that in the body of your email.
  • Use the ‘reply to all’ button only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Only copy (cc) an email to those who need to see it.
  • Send meeting invitations using your Outlook calendar.
  • Put the subject matter of your email in the ‘subject’ line and state what action is required eg
    • For action please by…
    • For information
    • Response requested by…
    • Papers for [title] meeting on [date]
    • Good news…
  • If it’s just a quick message, put the whole thing in the subject box.
  • Keep emails brief, clear, accurate and appropriate to your audience.
  • Delete any unnecessary content when you are replying to a ‘string’ of emails.  This is especially important if there is sensitive content involved.
  • Cut down on attachments.  If possible, send a link to a document or just copy the relevant part into the body of the email.
  • Assume that tasks requested through email will be carried out – there is no need for an acknowledgement email.
  • Take responsibility for keeping group email lists up to date.
  • Set up your Out of Office message when relevant and switch it off on your return.
  • Ask to be left off circular emails that you don’t need to see. 
  • Before you press the send button, pause and double check that:
    • you’ve listed the right recipients
    • the message is clear
    • you’ve added any necessary attachments.
  • Finally, avoid printing emails.  If you need to keep an email, store it on your computer.
  • Let us forget for a moment that they had a task group (or communication network) write this or that sometimes getting up and speaking to someone can waste monumental amounts of time the thing that really gets me about this is that they did it in the first place. It’s still ridiculous.

    A better e-mail (and yes the protocol was both an e-mail circulated to a group mailing list and didn’t have a clear title with action required in it) would have said the following:

    ‘You’re a highly paid member of staff tasked with doing a complicated job. Please be sensible about how you use your e-mail and try not to waste too much of your or other people’s time.’

    But that wouldn’t require a taskgroup or a senior manager signed off protocol so where would we be then?