Stephanie Engel, energi PR’s Senior Vice President, Client Services, shares her perspective on company email policy and etiquette.
Email, as one of my colleagues recently noted, is both a blessing and a curse. For obvious reasons of course. While the information wasn’t new, the phrasing really struck me. As someone who feels compelled to check – and respond – to emails constantly, I felt her words summed up my relationship with electronic communication perfectly.
Fittingly, she made the observation in an email reinstating an agency email policy which had long fallen by the wayside. The impact of COVID, and the burnout of WFH, made us realize it was time to bring the guidelines back. We needed to reset and give ourselves, and each other, a break.
The policy is straightforward and addresses etiquette for during and after office hours. It limits the sending of emails between business hours and on weekends and encourages employees to check their inbox at set times during the workday, rather than be always-on. In a sense, the policy gives us a permission to detach that we might not have given ourselves. There are exceptions to the rule of course, such as a client emergency or the lead-up to a launch, but for the most part the policy is in effect.
As one of the biggest offenders in the office, the new set of rules meant I had to shift my way of working. Rather than send a late-night note if I had a sudden brainwave or was catching up on my to-do list, I had to check myself. Now when the allure of email calls to me outside of working hours, I craft a note and put it in my drafts folder until the sun rises. It’s been a struggle, and I’ve had to sit on my hands a few times to refrain from hitting send, but it’s getting better. And I’m sure the intended recipient appreciates it as well.
I also had to curb my tendency of frequent email check-ins. My nature, coupled with years of agency training, saw me online all the time – and very often responding in real time, Saturday nights and Christmas Day notwithstanding.
So how has the policy impacted me? Well, for starters, it brings a calmness to the day (most of the time, I do work in a PR agency after all!) and has given me time back to devote to other things. Although I do some of my best work – particularly writing, in the quiet of the evening (deadlines permitting), I’m doing more of it during the day and spending more time getting back to the things I love like networking, mentoring, creativity and research.
I’m also learning to step back and be more strategic about when and how I respond to an email. While I’m always thoughtful in my responses, this way I can consider various items and send a consolidated response, rather than follow-ups with additional items I may have forgotten in the first go-round. I’m also prioritizing the requests, and determining what needs to be responded to immediately, and what can wait until later.
And the best part, I’m slowly feeling more and more like my evenings and weekends are my own and able to fully enjoy them. I’m not saying I’ve completely stopped the constant check-ins, I’m definitely still guilty, but it’s getting easier.
So, while email might be a blessing and a curse, I’m trying to find my middle ground. I’m still navigating my way through the email policy, and there have been some slip-ups and will continue to be. That said, practice makes perfect, and I’m committed to getting there.