If you exist anywhere on social media these days, you’ve likely seen some form of this tweet floating around:
The tweet obviously struck a chord – it’s been liked more than 40,000 times and retweeted 27,000 times. In today’s business environment, seemingly everyone wants something from you and most of them wanted it yesterday. This “always on demand” attitude is having an effect on two fronts in the workplace: creating an epidemic of burn-out at work and ushering a new era of frantic business etiquette. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do right now to polish your digital-age business manners and make your job just a little less stressful.
It’s time to take back your time. There’s an unwritten rule in business that if you don’t respond to emails immediately, you’re probably not working as hard as you should. Which, in 99 percent of cases, is 100-percent false. You have a long list of priorities and projects to attend to — so attend to them without apology. Saying “sorry” every time it takes a few hours or days to respond to an email only reinforces the (false) expectation you should have responded immediately. One strategy to levy people’s response expectations is to ask, “When do you need a reply?” Oftentimes, they don’t need an immediate response, which eliminates the stress of urgency and lets you craft a more thought-out reply when you finally have a few minutes to spare.
Or how about this approach? Last year, an email sent to Christine Renaud, CEO and co-founder of brain-dating company E-180, generated this auto response: “Thank you so much for reaching out,” it began. For one month, Renaud said, she would be working on an experiment to cure her email overload, in order to focus on a project that was important to her. She provided contact info for a handful of other people at E-180, and said that she would be checking email three times a week, “to make sure nothing fell between the cracks.” If any message was indeed urgent, she asked that the person resend it and include “URGENT” at the beginning of the subject. “I appreciate you playing along!” she wrote. “We’ll see what happens.”
Re-think social media
Social media is where we go to connect with friends, relax after a long day, or just pass a few minutes while we wait for the train. If you’re not careful, though, social media can be a breeding ground for drama, especially if you’re “friends” with people from your office. Engaging in online conversations about office gossip or posting an errant complaint about your boss can get you in serious hot water. So keep this in mind before you hit post: if you wouldn’t put it on the office bulletin board, don’t publish it in your feed.
Take a break
Our cell phones, our trusty electronic sidekicks, are constantly with us. We take them into our meetings, out on site visits, and out to dinner. They keep us connected to our family and friends – and our inbox. Constantly having your phone out – and feeling compelled to check it every few minutes – keeps us from fully engaging in the conversation we’re having, whether it’s in a team meeting or at a client dinner. Putting your phone away in these scenarios not only demonstrates that you are committed to the conversation, but also shows that you respect your clients’ or co-workers’ time.
Now that you’ve taken a refresher course in Digital Business Etiquette 101, check out the three rules to help you design the meetings of the future.