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December 2018
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Vatu’s new Email Policy

Darren PinderDarren Pinder

At Vatu Ltd, we have 3 main goals:

  1. Create high-quality websites
  2. Give great customer service to our clients
  3. Create a happy, safe, and fulfilling work environment for our staff

Today we’re launching a 3 month trial which aims to improve goals 2 and 3, and it simply involves not checking our email.

To be more specific, it involves only checking our emails on Mondays and Thursdays (or, if someone is on holiday one of those days, another day during the week). Emails can be replied to or forwarded during those times.

Why are we doing this?

Let’s break it down by looking at the 2 goals mentioned.

Great Customer Service

I know what you’re thinking. How can not reading client emails for a few days be a good thing for customer service? Our response to that is:

  1. Most clients, although would love a reply right away, don’t need a reply right away (do you really need that About Us team photo updated today?).
  2. A lot of people have a “send it and forget it” mentality to email, and probably wouldn’t even notice that a couple of days have gone by before they got a response.
  3. It’s important to remember what we’re doing whilst we’re not answering emails – we’re doing the work our clients are paying us to do.

In short, we’re spending less time talking and more time doing.

It’s also really important to point out that we’re not cutting ourselves off, or becoming harder to reach. We’re still here. If you really do need to speak with us, or have urgent work that needs doing before the next Monday/Thursday arrives, then call us. Our number is on our website, and someone will always answer the phone and talk with you. If the job is urgent, we’ll get someone on it right away.

A happy, safe, and fulflling workspace

This point is probably the most under-rated factor here, and is something we take seriously. Work is not the purpose of our lives, nor should it create undue stress in our lives. Work is what we do to enrich our lives and to help others in ways we know and love. Everyone has heard the saying that if you love the work you do, it’s not really work. But it’s not just about what you do, but how you do it.

This new trial aims to help our team create a more stress-free environment in the office by removing the often compulsive need to check emails, and by removing the huge time killer that is inbox management.

There’s also plenty of research to back up this idea.

A study aptly-called “Checking email less frequently reduces stress” by Elizabeth Dunn and Kostadin Kushlev showed that “limiting the frequency of checking email throughout the day reduced daily stress” and that “lower daily stress predicts greater well-being (e.g., higher positive affect).”

Here’s a direct quote from Kostadin Kushlev:

“So when you are in the middle of a task that needs to be done as soon as possible and you check your email to find out that 10 more people are awaiting your reply as soon as possible, you might feel overwhelmed.”

Another hugely important factor in this area is productivity.

We all want to be more productive, to get more done, and to get distracted less. But we also all know that emails are one of the biggest distractions in the work day. So why not put 2 + 2 together and reduce our time checking emails?

There’s also a secondary effect at work with emails, and that is the loss of focus surrounding the time to check emails. A 5 minute email reply doesn’t just lose 5 minutes from our productive time, it kills far more. Context-switching is incredibly hard to do, and going straight from email reply back to creative work or technical work without a loss in focus or flow is nearly impossible. A 5 minute email reply is more like 20 minutes lost in productivity.

In summary

The team at Vatu are here because they love building incredible websites for clients, not because they love checking emails. Emails are a necessity in almost every line of work, but it’s important to keep them in check.

We’d love to hear your feedback on our new email trial, whether the feedback is good or bad. We can’t improve customer service if we don’t get customer feedback, so please do drop us an email with your thoughts and we’ll reply to you next Monday or Thursday!

Owner of Vatu Ltd and Raccoon Events. Organiser at WordCamp London. Into space, code, and running.

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