Written by Rachael Sherman
We’re officially a year into out-of-office life, and we’re all still finding ways to improve our WFH game. Previously, we’ve covered conquering the Zoom scaries, facilitating remote workshops, and overcoming inaction —and now we’re going back to basics: email.These days, our attention is constantly divided among email, Slack, Zoom, text messages, DMs, and other app alerts and chats. Although many of us rely on Slack for day-to-day convos, email is still an important tool for multi-part discussions, complex action items, sharing several attachments at once, and so on. Here’s how to do it the right way… not the wrong way
Instead of: Sending emails whenever inspiration strikes.
Try: Sending during regular business hours only.
Why it’s better: If someone gets a work email while they’re watching lemur TikToks before bed, their impulse will be to shift back into work mode. Actual emergencies aside, this quickly turns into burnout, poor sleep, lack of motivation, and increased anxiety and stress.
How to do it: Save your drafts and send in the morning, or use a scheduler tool. Since many of us work with colleagues in different time zones, take a tip from Julie, our managing director. She’s added a line to her email signature: “My work hours may not be your work hours. Please don’t feel obligated to reply outside your normal schedule.”
Instead of: Using jargon in an attempt to simplify.
Try: Avoiding acronyms and linking to information that the receiver may be unfamiliar with.
Why it’s better: Taking the time to explain complicated concepts up front reduces endless back-and-forth chains and avoids the risk of confusion from using vague, imprecise language. Also, jargon sucks.
Instead of: Assuming you understand a concept you’re not super familiar with and saying “Ok, thanks!” too quickly.
Try: Repeating and mirroring key ideas.
Why it’s better: This ensures you understand what your team is saying, and allows people to feel seen.
How to do it: Use phrases like “What I’m hearing you say is….” Also, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification early. It’ll save you a lot of time and trouble down the road.
Instead of: Using email and other text-based mediums for every conversation.
Try: Taking it Zoom... or just picking up the damn phone.
Why: Putting things in writing can provide clarity, but sometimes you need to see or hear someone in order to understand their motives and working style. And we’ve all had busy days when we’ve fired off uncharacteristically terse emails that might convey a tone we don’t really mean. Worst of all, “one quick question” can quickly turn into dozens of new message alerts.
How to do it: Put an immediate stop to back-and-forth emails by dialing your colleague’s number on the spot. Sometimes it’s just easier to call people! Plus, since nobody under the age of 50 expects phone calls anymore, it can be a friendly surprise or a power move, depending on the situation. Alternatively, send one final email: “Let’s move this conversation to Zoom. Are you free at 4pm?” Or—and let me tell you, I’ve been fantasizing about this one—”Let’s grab coffee and discuss this IRL.”