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Tackling workplace communications and email overload at EBE

With a new academic year about to dawn here in the UK, over the summer at EBE, we’ve put wellbeing, mental health and work/life balance under the microscope – not only for our team, but also for those we work with.

Excessive emails, the regular notifications they cause, and the disruption that then has on the working day have come under sharp focus. We are hopeful this has positive implications not only for our team, but also for the teachers, leaders, researchers and policy-makers who engage with us too.

We have, over the last couple of months, been taking part in a study involving Kohola‘s training and email tracking software. The package is designed to reshape workplace communications, both internally and externally, and to help workers regain control of their working day. Overall, we have found the experience to be hugely positive. It has led to the creation of an ’email commitment statement’, which we hope will have positive impact on the wellbeing of our team and of those we work with.

You can read the statement in full here, but the key takeaways and implications for our colleagues in schools, colleges and other organisations are as below:

First and foremost, we are encouraging our team to carefully consider the best method of communication for the purpose – even when receiving an email, an email in reply might not always be the best choice.

Second, we are supporting staff to take more control over their work/life balance by more openly talking about occupational self-regulation, for example by encouraging staff to remove work emails from their phones, and not to email out of hours. Our leadership team are setting an example, by setting defined times of day when they will deal with, process and respond to emails, and by making clear that there is no expectation from staff to respond immediately to emails.

This has benefits for their own wellbeing and work/life balance, but more importantly, we are encouraging our team to be mindful of the recipient(s) when sending emails… Does everyone in this email trail need to be cc’d in and receive a notification? When is the right time to send it so as to avoid them getting out-of-hours notifications? Are the subject and content very clear, well structured and easily digestible?

Finally, while we have built a reputation for being quick and efficient to respond to emails, we also understand that this constant pressure can sometimes cause an unintended negative impact on wellbeing. As such, we are setting very clear guidelines on the timings of emails, and we feel it is important for those we work with to be aware of them:

    • We endeavour to reply to every email that requires a response within one working day; and
    • We don’t expect replies to our own emails this quickly in general.

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