Email Policy: The Second Draft

Companies that don’t bother implementing an email policy risk looking insensitive and outdated. A sound email policy lets people switch off after work and not burn out. I have had to implement an email policy for my mental health; I hope that people will stick to this email policy whilst I am working with them – I was close to burnout… I used to run an “Always On” business but I was getting nowhere – the stress of work, email in particular, was becoming a dread. I had to do something so that I did not go over the edge. So, here is my email policy, as bundled with every onboarding…

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1. Ban Out-of-Office Emailing

The first (and most obvious) step for businesses is to ban leisure time emailing outright. Companies should consider whether off-hours emails are needed for their operation. As we know, it’s probably doing more harm than good.

2. Set Off-Hours Emailing Windows

If it’s somehow crucial that businesses exchange emails out of the office, then we must outline strict leisure time emailing windows.

This could be a one-hour window where all staff can exchange emails. We could also set up specific email schedules for staff members that are collaborating. The point is to limit off-hours communications outside of scheduled times and set clear boundaries for staff members.

3. Let It Be Known That There Is No Pressure

Many of us are still in the mindset that they must reply to managers or bosses instantly to impress them or keep on top of work.

Managers need to remind staff that there is no pressure to reply outside of work instantly. Tell employees about the health benefits of scheduling their email habits, and begin to change company culture around certain “expectations.” « THIS IS IMPORTANT.

4. Tell Employees to Turn Off Email Notifications

Managers should tell employees to turn off email notifications when they’re not at work. This way, even if companies have banned off-hours emailing, staff members won’t be tempted to check.

5. Ban Rude Emails

Managers should ban actively rude and passive-aggressive emails. Whether those emails are sent between employees or from bosses to employees shouldn’t matter.

Bosses should verbalise their opinion in a one-to-one conversation with the employee if they have a problem. Getting angry over email is too confusing — and too stressful — to do any good for anyone.

6. Set Principles to Help Staff Manage Inboxes

We hope, through working together, to write down a list of questions employees should ask themselves when checking their inbox:

  • Does this email require my urgent attention, or can I read/reply later?
  • Do I need to send this email at all?
  • Do I need to “reply all”?

Other rules can help users keep on top of inboxes and reduce stress, such as “last in, first out” and ensuring every employee has an empty inbox by the end of the working day.

7. Assign a Client to Multiple Inboxes

A big part of the “always-on” culture and anxiety around email is the clients’ demand for employees to be “on-call” at all hours of the day. Managers can mitigate this stress by assigning a specific email address to a particular client, type of client, or subject.

Give multiple staff members control of the email address. That way, when an unruly client inevitably bombards employees with emails at 8pm, staff members can take it in turns to reply, so the burden doesn’t land on the shoulders of a single person.

8. Encourage Mindfulness at Work

This isn’t an “email policy” per se, but should improve employees’ relationships with email. Teach employees about the benefits of mindfulness exercises. Tell staff members to practice breathing exercises at work, even lead a free guided meditation at break time.

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