Wait, Don’t Click Send Yet! (Considering the Impact of Email)

We have all been there. Inundated with email throughout the day, our inboxes can range from having dozens to hundreds to thousands of unread messages in them – and it never seems to stop. During the day with back to back meetings, collaborating with others, travel, etc it can be difficult to check and respond to email during the typical workday. Sometimes this leaves us with checking and responding to email in the late evenings and weekends, as this is the only time we have time to sit down and focus after the day’s activities are over.

Throughout my career I have formed a habit of doing exactly this as I am sure many of those reading this have as well – it has become natural, and something that is expected. Let’s also not forget how email is connected to our mobile devices and we are constantly checking to see if any new messages have arrived (or immediately grabbing the device once it buzzes).

Recently I have recognized the impact of sending emails late at night or on the weekends have downstream to the recipients of my emails. In this blog post I will discuss the challenges of this, the impact and how I have evolved this habit into a new “best practice” for myself. I hope in reading this you will be inspired to evolve and develop your own best practices for how to best handle email in your life.

Why is sending an email bad?

To be clear, sending an email is not a bad thing, not at all. But, sending an email after the recipient has ended work for the day can have major impact downstream to your recipients and others who read the email. Let’s break this down into a typical flow of sending an email after business hours:

(Note, the following is just an example)

  1. I need to send an email to a co-worker because I need status on a project. I need this information because I have an upcoming status review meeting with management.
  2. I haven’t had a chance to send it yet today due to meetings, but it’s now 9pm and I need to get this out (because I feel the sooner it’s sent the better, as it’s off my plate and my co-worker might respond faster than if I were to wait until tomorrow).
  3. I spend 5-10 minutes composing the email asking for the specific status information I need. I click send.
  4. My co-worker is logged off their computer, but he has email setup on his smartphone and receives a new message notification (along with a ringtone and vibration).
  5. The co-worker hears the notification, and decides to read the email. He then spends roughly 20 minutes composing the email (researching the status, gathering information, etc).

Impact it has on me:

Impact: The most important item to mention here, is that I am working after hours. The question becomes, why was I working so late? The fact that I am working late creates additional (and unnecessary) stress. Stress can have a negative contribution to health and job satisfaction.

Questions I ask myself: What can I do to reduce the time I spend working after hours? What can I do during the workday that can prevent me from having to work late? Why do I feel I need to send this email right now?

Impact: After I send the email, the recipient will more than likely reply – generating additional email messages that will arrive in my inbox. This creates more work for me to then triage and go through.

Questions I ask myself: Was there a better way to get the information I need rather than sending the email? Is there a different method I can use? Does it have to be through an email? Lastly, does my company really want me to be working this much after hours?

Impact it has on others:

Impact: The obvious downstream impact is on the recipient themselves. The recipient may now start to feel stressed that the email needs to be replied to immediately.

Questions I ask myself: What is the recipient doing currently during this time (at night or on the weekend). How likely are they to reply to the email? By sending this email, am I taking time away from their family? By sending this email, am I creating unnecessary stress for them? Am I going to somehow damage the relationship or create resentment by sending this email? How frequently do I send email after hours to this one individual? Lastly, how important is the email and can it wait until the next business day?

Okay, but I still need to send the email:

If the email must be sent and there is no other option, I developed a few new personal best practices for how to send the email but ensure it doesn’t arrive until the next business day. There are two methods for which to do this: scheduled and save in drafts.

Scheduled:

Outlook has a useful feature that allows you to schedule the day and time for when you want the email to be delivered. After you click send, the email will remain in your outbox until the scheduled day and time and then it will be automatically sent. I find this feature particularly useful as I can still work late at night or on the weekend (or even on a plane) and still triage email as needed. For more information on how to schedule emails in Outlook see the following article.

Draft:

I use this method frequently as I like to reply to emails or compose new messages but save them in my drafts folder. On the next business day, I have time set aside in the morning to review the emails in my draft folder, and make any necessary modifications before I send them. This time is blocked on my calendar as “Matt Time” and is intended for administrative tasks such as responding to emails.

Another best practice I developed when sending the email is disabling the ability for recipients to reply all to the thread, and therefore generating more email traffic than necessary. When I send an email to a large number of recipients or to a distribution list, enabling Rights Management Service on the message and selecting “Do Not Reply All” disables the Reply All button. For more information on how to do this, click here.

What other options do I have besides sending the email?

In my daily work, I have many communication tools available to me and based on how I want to communicate will dictate which tool I use:

Microsoft Teams: If I am working on a project team, or need to communicate within my direct team, posting the message to Microsoft Teams and @ mentioning the specific individual may be a better option. Perhaps the email I wanted to send was more informational to the team, and no action is required (i.e. a newsletter, news article, or general “FYI email”) then Microsoft Teams might be the best place to post it (remember you can send an email to a channel in Microsoft Teams).

Yammer: If I have a question about something, but I am not sure who to ask, posting to Yammer may be the better option since everyone in the company subscribes to Yammer and I may find the right subject matter expert. Here’s an article I wrote about thinking through how being social at work makes me more productive.

Phone Call: As simple as it sounds, personally I forgot how effective calling someone can be. The phone call may take less than a few minutes and can be very effective by getting you the information you need or allowing you to share your information with the recipient.

Conclusion: Taking the time to think through if sending an email is really necessary can have a huge impact. However, if you must send the email, consider scheduling it or saving the draft for the next business day. Lastly, consider minimizing the audience or disabling the ability to reply all. I hope you find value in this blog post, please feel free to leave comments if you have your own best practices that you have developed.

Reduce Email with Microsoft Teams (how and why to do it)

Introduction: The purpose of this post is to walk you through how to send an email to a channel in Microsoft Teams and why you would want to do so.

One of the many interesting features of Microsoft Teams is the capability to send an email to the team channel, and have the contents of the email displayed in the threaded conversation for all team members to view. But you’re probably wondering, why would I do that when I can just forward the email to those individuals instead? Why would I want to view it in Microsoft Teams?

Let’s explore the reasons why you would want to see an email in Microsoft Teams:

  • Searchable. Once the email has been sent to Microsoft Teams, it is now in the persistent chat and is saved for the life of the team. This makes it extremely easy to search for and find when you need it. I personally like this, because rather than someone on the team asking “Matt, can you send me the proposal email, because I can’t seem to find it in my mailbox” there’s no excuse – they can now search for the email within the team channel.
  • Attachments in one place. If you are on an email thread that contains an attachment (i.e. a document), and the sender is asking for comments in the document and to make changes/edit the document – we can quickly find ourselves with several different versions of the document spread across several different email messages in the thread. This can make managing that document very difficult, and time consuming to incorporate everyone’s changes/comments/etc. By sending the email to Microsoft Teams, the attachment is automatically uploaded to the channel’s files where team members can collaborate and co-author on a single version of the document.
  • Non-Forkable. A common problem we see with email is that we will forward a message to a separate set of individuals and start to conduct a lively conversation thread with those individuals. Meanwhile, a whole other conversation is still taking place back on the main email thread. This is a problem because now there are two places where the conversation is occurring, both groups of people cannot see the entire conversation because they are not members of both email threads. This can have devastating impacts and now causes the team to be split into two and working in silos. By sending the email to teams, it’s now in a single authoritative place where the entire team can participate in a conversation thread around that email.
  • It promotes teamwork. Involving everyone in the team is a good thing. Giving everyone visibility to the email, it’s attachments and granting them the opportunity to provide input is an even better thing.
  • Cuts down on email. Personally, my biggest challenge with email is the amount of messages I receive on a daily basis (and I am sure you can relate). If those messages are threaded with many recipients hitting reply-all, then my inbox really starts to grow. Why is this a problem? Well, how do I know if an email is important? How do I know if I need to take action? As a result, I have to read each email one by one. By sending the email to Microsoft Teams it’s in the threaded chat conversation, and I don’t have to read it if I don’t want to. However, if it’s important, the person who sent it may choose to @ mention the entire team or channel. Now it is “marked as important” and notifies everyone so they will read it. If there’s a specific action requested of me individually, in the chat conversation someone can @ mention me specifically. I will then be notified in my Action hub in Microsoft Teams and I know that I now need to read the thread. No @ mention, then the thread is just awareness, and is optional to read. Oh, and by giving a “thumbs up” to “like” the message – this indicates that you have received and read the message (no need to reply all and say “Thanks!”)

    The concept to understand, is that by sending the email to Microsoft Teams, and not to an email distribution list, or replying all and adding others, or forwarding, is this can reduce the amount of email for all parties involved – and can have positive downstream impacts on work life balance, team morale and even reduce stress. All by switching the conversation over to Microsoft Teams! This is powerful, and it’s all because you took the small step of sending it to the team channel 🙂 However, this won’t work as effectively unless everyone on the team is doing replicating this behavior.

    How do I send an email to the channel?

    First, before we go any further we need to know the email address of the channel in Microsoft Teams. To do this, next to the channel click the ellipsis and select Get email address:


    This will display the email address of the channel, click Copy:


    The email address will be copied to your clipboard. Next, locate the email you would like to send to the Microsoft Teams channel and forward it to the email address you just copied:

    Note: The email address will automatically resolve, in my example “General” is the name of the channel and “Project Del Mar” is the name of the team. Also, the areas I circled in red I will remove from the email prior to sending as to ensure it is cleanly formatted so that it can easily be read in the threaded chat conversation in Microsoft Teams. Lastly, notice there is an attachment.

In a few moments, a new chat conversation thread will be created in the General channel of the Project Del Mar team in Microsoft Teams. Notice the subject Northwide Proposal is displayed, and Alex’s original message is also displayed. In addition, you can download the original email message by clicking on the download original email (1 attachment) link (which will prompt you to save the email in .eml format for use in Outlook if you like).

From here, I will write a quick reply and @ mention the team to ensure everyone reads the message. Note that the reply will only be visible in Microsoft Teams (and will not be in email):

Note the red tab to the right of the reply. This indicates the entire team was @ mentioned.

I will now switch to a different user that is a member of the Project Del Mar team. In my Activity hub a new notification is displayed where the team was @ mentioned. Clicking on that notification will take me directly to that conversation thread and I can now review the message:

To acknowledge receipt of the message, instead of replying to everyone in the thread – I will simply click the thumbs up icon to indicate that I like the message. Now Megan will know that I have read the message:

In Megan’s view, hovering over the thumbs up icon she will see who has liked the message:

But wait, this email contained an attachment. Click on the attachment (blue bar) in the thread to view it:

Note: Based on the type of attachment the color and icon will change (green for Excel, Red for PowerPoint,etc)

The attachment will automatically open in Word Online viewer from within Microsoft Teams (no need to switch applications). When finished, click Close to return to the conversation.

Note, clicking Start Conversation will start a new conversation thread around just that document (and not the original email) this can be useful if there are multiple attachments in the email, you can collaborate on each one separately. This also makes it flexible based on how you want to collaborate:

Remember earlier I told you the attachment is stored in the channel’s files? At the top of the channel click Files. In the files view notice a new folder was created titled Email Attachments click the folder:


In the folder you will find the document in the attachment, and the original email in .eml format:

At this point, you can click the ellipsis next to the document and get a link directly to the document if you like. Let’s click on the document, and make some edits (either in this file view, or by clicking on the document in the conversation thread). Once the document is open, click Edit in Word Online:


I will make some edits to the document, (because it’s Word Online the edits will automatically be saved) when finished I will close the browser window:


Back in Microsoft Teams, I’m going to click Start Conversation to let Alex know I made an edit:

When finished click Close. Notice the time stamp under modified and the name under modified by has been updated to reflect my edits to the file:

Return to the conversation view in Microsoft Teams. As expected, a new conversation chat thread was started based on my comments in the document:

Next, I’d like to ask the owner (Alex) to notify the team once the proposal has been sent to the customer. I replied in the conversation thread, and @ mentioned Alex, notice Alex’s name is blue indicating he was @ mentioned:

In Alex’s Microsoft Teams client, he will receive a new notification in his Activity hub. When he clicks that notification, it will display the exact place where he was @ mentioned in the thread. Notice the tab to the right.

Lastly, this seems to be an important document as it’s a customer proposal. To ensure the team can quickly access it , let’s pin it as a tab. Click the ellipsis next to the attachment and select Make this a tab:


A new tab will be added to the top of the channel:


Conclusion: As you can see, by sending an email to Microsoft Teams you can greatly enhance the way the team views email and even new ways for them to collaborate around it. How are you using this in your organization? Do you have questions or would like for me to continue to expand on this concept? Let me know in the comments below!