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Week of June 24, 2013

Three tips for managing email stress

According to a pilot study conducted by U-M’s Business & Finance Leadership Academy, many university faculty and staff consider email stressful. In fact, 75 percent of survey respondents reported moderate to high levels of stress related to their email, specifically email volume and response expectations.

“Email has changed the way we communicate, and we have not adjusted well,” says John R. Sonnega, Stress Management Program manager for MHealthy. “Instead of mailing or faxing, we email documents and letters. When we have a question or need information, we’re more likely to send an email instead of picking up the phone or having a face-to-face conversation. We’re getting higher volumes of email, and are unsure how to respond appropriately.”

To help university faculty and staff learn how to manage stress related to email, MHealthy Mental and Emotional Health is holding a free 30-minute online webinar June 28, from noon-12:30 p.m. Led by Sonnega, the webinar will provide useful guidelines and simple strategies to manage your email stress and foster better communication. To register, go to www.mhealthy.umich.edu/stressmgt.

Sonnega offers three simple tips to help reduce email stress:

1. Organize your email.

• Create a method to keep your inbox tidy by using some of the tools within your email system, such as creating folders and labels to categorize and prioritize.

• Take steps to reduce the volume of emails you send and receive, such as unsubscribing to unnecessary bulk email and limiting messages that only say “thank you.”

• Write clear informative subject lines and stick to one email per topic so messages can be easily organized and retrieved.

2. Practice good email etiquette.

• Be polite. Remember to use good manners and include a courteous greeting and closing to your email.

• Read your emails out loud to ensure the tone is what you intend.

3. Communicate expectations.

• Communicate clearly about when you are (or are not) available to respond to email.

• Discuss email response time expectations with your colleagues. If you receive an email request but know that you can’t respond right away, consider sending a quick response noting when you will be able to provide a full response.

• Set expectations about the type of response you’d like to receive, by using phrases such as no response needed (NRN), no need to reply (NNTR), please do not reply all, or please respond by Friday.

• Create good relationship habits. Encourage each other to send less and talk more. Advocate for better communication.

“Email, along with the advent of smart phones, has helped create a sense of a 24-hour work day, where we can work and communicate 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Sonnega says. “Unless parameters are set and expectations are discussed, this can be stressful.”

Sonnega also plans to cover the topic of email stress in a series of departmental meetings around campus. Anyone interested in adding a 15-minute discussion to their department or unit meeting can contact MHealthy at 734-764-0343.

More tips and the full guidelines on managing email stress are available at www.mhealthy.umich.edu/emailstress.

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