In this post, I’ll be discussing the use of your businesses email client and how to maximize its benefit. Although many digital communication and data storage tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack are causing some to question the role of email, it still currently holds a significant place in our office technology and daily workflows. Just like we revisited in-office conversation a couple months ago, we thought another edition of office communication etiquette would be valuable, this time, the email and calendar edition.
Although Apple Mail holds a significant portion of the market share of all email clients, we’ve seen that businesses often leverage Outlook or Gmail, so that’s where we’ve focused our tips. It also just so happens that those are the clients that I’m most familiar with. That being said, most of these tips are around general maintenance and not specific functionality, so it’s worthwhile to all!
The first tip I’ll provide is one that I find incredibly useful and not as well-known as I expected – grouping conversations. If you end up in a back and forth with someone over email, this functionality allows you to easily navigate every email received in that conversation, nestled under the most recent.
Grouping conversations together is an easy win in email maintenance. Keep a conversation together with all emails in the thread connected instead of searching through your inbox to find the past correspondence or previous attachments. In Outlook you’ll find the option titled ‘Show as Conversations’ under view, and in Gmail this is called ‘Conversation View’ and can be found in the settings.
Marking Your Calendar When on PTO
We all live busy work lives, and our calendar facilitates our daily approach. Scheduling meetings with numerous people is tough enough, but if James hasn’t updated his calendar to show him out next week… everyone might join a meeting only to find that a key stakeholder is unavailable.
Don’t be James, mark your calendar as OOO as soon as you know you won’t be there – it also makes me a little more excited about taking time off.
Pro tip – you can schedule a ‘full day’ event that covers the entirety of your time off instead of blocking an event for every day.
Out of Office Messages
If Susan has a question for you, it’s possible that she checks your calendar and sees you’re not in the office. It’s also possible that she shoots you a quick email hoping for a quick response. Save her the frustration of realizing you’re out after waiting on the answer and set up an auto reply note stating when you’ll return.
Pro tip – you can embrace the setting options and set up different responses for different people, for instance those who are a part of your network and those who are not. I had a coworker once who set up an automated response for a specific other colleague he worked with as a prank.
Color Coding Meetings
This is one that I use every now and then, more so in my consulting days when I was working with a few different customers. Making all meetings with a certain client the same color allows for a quick visual representation of who you’ll be spending your day with. This is particularly helpful if you have a very busy calendar.
I had a professor in college who refused to respond to emails if we didn’t include a salutation. While some found this to be an unnecessary impediment to communication, it has always resonated with me. Emails are quick and easy, it’s not hard to add some version of a ‘Hello’. It makes your communication much more agreeable and tactful. Think about it this way – would you call someone and not say hello? Would you swing by someone’s desk and not greet the person before asking a question? Of course not, so let’s extend that cordiality to email correspondence as well. This also allows you the opportunity to intentionally leave out the salutation if you are escalating some situation.
Make a conscious decision about what your email signature should or shouldn’t say. Is it promoting something? Is it simply your name and title? Different roles within the same company may approach it quite differently, so observe what others have and see what makes sense to you.
Email correspondence and calendar maintenance is a significant way in which we interact with our colleagues and customers, whether directly or indirectly. It’s a platform that has high day-to-day use and our tact and approach have implications for how we are received by those we engage with. We hope that these quick tips help you make the most of your email client and we’ll see you for more tips and tricks again soon!