Do you recall sending your first email?
Perhaps you were one of the earliest adopters, using America Online to send your first email in the early 1990s. Perhaps you were like me, using Hotmail (username redhott818) to send your first message after the service began in 1996. Or perhaps you've always been a Gmail person, sending your first email sometime after Google's 2007 public launch.
As is the case with most technology, email's impact on the workplace draws mixed reviews. When used properly, email increases workplace efficiency, provides a running record of communication, and keeps employees connected. When misused, email stifles employee productivity, produces underlying stress, and undermines organizational health.
Email was intended to make our work lives easier.
Whether or not that is the case … well that’s debatable.
Let’s be honest: email has completely transformed the workplace.
Before email, communication relied heavily on written memos, phone calls, and face-to-face interactions. Information dissemination took more time, and collaboration opportunities were more limited.
With email, leaders can very quickly and easily stay in contact with employees. Email allows leaders to disseminate information, provide updates, coordinate schedules, and organize meetings with the push of a button.
Email has improved the decision-making process. Email allows leaders to gather input, engage in dialogue, and quickly disseminate decisions. And during times of crisis, leaders are able to quickly share updates with large numbers of individuals.
Furthermore, email has improved communication with parents and external stakeholders. Email allows leaders to share updates, celebrate achievements, and address concerns with individuals who are not physically present on their campus.
In addition to all of the typical benefits, email offers two "under-the-radar" benefits for leaders: keeping documentation and respecting people's time.
First, email generates documentation. How many times have you given staff verbal directives only to realize those requests remain unfinished several days later? Or, how many times have you shared instructions during a faculty meeting but later discover staff did not follow directions? Unfortunately, lack of employee follow-through plagues many school districts.
Having a paper trail is critical for holding employees accountable. Instead of debating what may or may not have been said in a conversation, email provides timestamped evidence of marching orders. Shrewd bosses not only use email to efficiently communicate with a large audience, they also use email as a high leverage management tool.