I’ve talked before about how responsiveness – or lack thereof – can make or break your reputation at work. Typically, I complain about people who never answer emails unless there’s something in it for them at that moment, or who take weeks to do so. However, it turns out that most people’s definition of responsiveness is even stricter than I would have thought. It turns out that your colleagues don’t want to wait for you at all.
Same Day Response is the New Normal
MailTime is an app that converts email to a text message format via the smartphone. The founders recently conducted a study of 1,500 professionals to evaluate email etiquette in 2014-15. What they discovered may surprise you.
Most people (52 percent) expect you to answer work-related emails within 24 hours, and 19 percent want that response within 12 hours. The more time that goes by, the less people tolerate. Only 3 percent think it’s appropriate to answer emails within a week. More than that? Forget about it.
Wi Fi: A Blessing or a Curse?
As technology becomes more and more instantaneous, it’s no longer acceptable to pretend you didn’t see a message right away, or even to cite the “I was traveling” excuse. Wi Fi is everywhere, so except for those precious few hours on the plane (for now, while you still have to pay extra fees), you’re on the hook to get back to co-workers within hours. Unless you’re 80, the 90s model of checking email once or twice a day is long gone.
Slow Responders Reap the Consequences
There was a time when people thought email was going away, but things have evolved quite differently. For the time being, email is still the default method of communication inside the global business world.
What happens when you take too long to respond to a message? To start, you could lose business. In my own line of work, prospective clients frequently email several speakers/writers at once and go with the person who sends back the most satisfactory response in the least amount of time. Second, you’re in danger of a misunderstanding. The sender may think the lapsed communication means you are trying to ignore him, or that you don’t think he is important.
When you get into the habit of failing to respond in a timely manner, people start to question your competence, level of organization, and work ethic. They resent having to chase you down for an answer, and they start to avoid working with you. Word gets around, and pretty soon, your overall reputation is suffering.
“But I Actually Have a Job Besides Answering Email!”
You’re busy. Really busy. And if you thoroughly answered every email that popped onto your smartphone right away, you would never get anything done. Not only does it take longer to type on a smartphone (for most of us), but you’d be constantly interrupting true productive work.
That’s why, in an article for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, MailTime founder Charlie Sheng recommends that you get back to people right away with a one-liner letting them know that you received the message, and that a more detailed response is forthcoming. This way, you appease them while buying yourself time to compose a thoughtful response later.
In case you are feeling overwhelmed by these results, you can rest easy knowing that apparently expectations for personal email responses are not quite as high. Sixty percent of those surveyed by MailTime said they expect responses to personal emails within 48 hours, and a full 10 percent are willing to wait a week.