You’ve got mail

Picture this. It’s been a long hard day at work. You have are all set to log off and head to the dinner table where the family is waiting. And then, the notification on your phone chimes. You’ve got mail. Your manager is asking for a piece of data for a meeting that is a couple of weeks away.

It will take 15 minutes of putting it together after getting it from your colleague. Would you respond to it or will you get to it tomorrow morning?

“It depends”. That was been the answer most respondents I asked this question came up with. But when researchers Laura M. Giurge & Vanessa Bohns examined the urgency quotient in email sending and receiving in 4000 working adults, something interesting came up.

Let’s dive in.

Email Urgency Bias

Well, that’s what the researchers call it. Email urgency bias. This is fascinating. Over a couple of studies, researchers found that receivers (of emails) assumed they needed to respond 36% faster to off-hours work emails than senders expected’!

So people who received emails misread the urgency quotient of the mail. Often thinking it to be far more urgent than it actually was in the mind of the sender.

There’s more.

‘Receivers reported feeling more stressed by off-hours work emails than senders expected them to feel, and the stress associated with this unnecessary pressure resulted in lower subjective well being”.

Reading this prompted me to think of when I send my emails. Well, to be honest, I send them when I get to my mail. Which are often times in the wee hours of the morning as I dive into the day. I ponder over the content of the mail quite a bit, but until now, I have not given much of a thought to when I was sending out mail. Especially so, given the multiple time zones that I operate in.

You’ve Got Mail. So?

So, what could I do? I mean, email is a necessary link to connect to the world. Ok, I am not good with it. My mail box is a mess. But, how do I ensure that the odd hours that these mails are sent in, don’t cause stress? I mean additional stress than what the content can carry :)?

How could I be more careful of that?

Here is one pointer that I got from the Wall Street Journal that I think I will consider. A suggestion that at the end of the email I could add the following.

“Note that you might receive this message outside of my office hours but I have no expectation to recieve a message outside of yours.”

I checked with a couple of my colleagues of adding something like this to the mails I send out. Wouldn’t that reduce the stress that accompanies ‘You’ve got mail”? They considered it and liked it. But they also had a word of caution. Their fear was that such a broad statement could get my emails to be de-prioritised in the scheme of things. Worse, my mail could get lost. They agreed that setting the right expectations is important. Their suggestion: Add in a ‘not so urgent’ message, but not to leave it at a ‘reply whenever you can’.

Now, I have work to do. I have to craft that statement. I am in the market for ideas to get this right. A crisp message at the end of every email that will remind the receiver that the mail doesn’t warrant an urgent response. Unless specified otherwise, of course. If you have an idea or two, please do send it in.

And no, it’s not urgent. Maybe you can send it in after Deepavali! Until then, enjoy the celebrations.

The OWL Despatch

This is edition 92 of The OWL Despatch. Typically, I put one out every fortnight on interesting reads I picked up. Here are five pieces for you to chew on. I hope this curation in this edition makes it worthwhile for you to have got the “You’ve got mail” notification!

Labor economist Lawrence Katz looks at ‘Great Resignation’ and where it might lead. “I think we’ve really met a once-in-a-generation ‘take this job and shove it’ moment.” Insightful stuff.

Thoughts on how to get stronger when things are chaotic

A new account upends bedrock assumptions about 30,000 years of change

If you are a lover of languages and culture, this one will resonate with you. “A language I learned without learning, that I forgot without forgetting. A language as sweet as a mouthful of sugar. ”

In a major scientific advance, a pig kidney is successfully transplanted into a human

That’s that for this edition. Whenever you have a moment or two, do spread the word. Keep the masks on. And stay away from responding to “You’ve got mail’.

Here’s to festive times!

Write a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.