American workers have begun a love-hate relationship with email. Communicating by email can enhance communications by quickly disseminating information and providing fast response to inquiries. It can also allow for quicker problem-solving and more streamlined business processes. That said, we've become so conditioned to the immediacy that the lack of a response can drain productivity and increase stress. Remember when an excuse for nonperformance was so and so did not return my call. Now the excuse is so and so has not responded to my email. Neither is a good one.
There are good reasons why someone may not respond immediately to an email. There are just too many emails, and often the important ones get lost in the noise. The challenge is to determine how to filter what's important and what's not effectively. Nearly 70% of workers report that email makes them feel the most overwhelmed at work and that they spend almost 25% of their time checking it. According to a Symphony global collaboration survey, that's more time than most employees spend doing actual work.
Companies understand the time-sapping downside of email checking. Some companies have established policies that permit employees to ignore emails after a certain hour of the day. Especially after hours, few emails require an immediate response. An approach like this helps employees understand there is no need to monitor their inbox after hours.
The quality of messaging also impacts response time. Emails that have a clearly defined call to action typically will receive faster and better responses. Similarly, the amount of information in an email will affect response and timeliness. If you provide too much information, it may cause the recipient to put your email on the back burner. Also, offer options in an email. You don't want to paint a recipient into a corner and force them to make a decision they may not want to make.
Sometimes using email is a way not to communicate. If you are looking for a decision or need to address a sensitive issue, a phone call would generally yield more timely and effective results.