In this age of smartphones and constant communication, checking your email as soon as your wake-up alarm sounds feels like an obvious and natural move for any working professional. However, a recent backlash to this instant inbox graze has emerged, with contrarians arguing that starting their day by checking their emails distracts from other tasks and interrupts a productive work flow.
But while we’re definitely not endorsing answering emails before you’ve even had your A.M. coffee, there’s a strong argument to be made for taking a peek at your inbox once you reach your desk. US News and World Report recently published a piece on the benefits of dealing with emails at the top of the workday, and they brought up some compelling reasons that we think are worth considering.
1. If you put off checking your email, you can miss urgent requests and assignments.
When arguing in favor of checking your email once you get to work, it helps to start with the obvious: just because you’ve decided that reading messages first-thing interrupts your workflow, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your supervisors and colleagues feel the same way. Unless there’s a clear office-wide covenant agreeing that emails need not be addressed right away (a fairly unlikely circumstance in most workplaces), making this choice for the sake of your own productivity may inadvertently hinder others from doing their jobs.
While it makes sense to create a daily to-do list for yourself and adhere to it as much as possible, working in an office requires a certain degree of flexibility. Unless you work for yourself in an isolated atmosphere, your workflow affects others, and a positive and open collaborative environment fosters success for the whole team. Plus, most bosses want employees who can stay abreast of new updates and of-the-moment assignments, which supervisors frequently send via email. US News and World Report puts it like this:
“If your supervisor requires you to stay on top of your email in order to remain up to date on assignments and top-line requests, then saving your messages for midday could seriously hurt your work performance.”
2. For those working in client-facing roles, responding to emails quickly is often a non-negotiable requirement.
Holding your email responses until the late morning or early afternoon may help you put an early dent in your list of daily duties, but if you work in a position involving correspondence with clients, answering messages on your own time isn’t necessarily an option. According to US News and World report, “effectively servicing clients needs to be at the top of every company's or enterprise's goal list, so staying accessible to customers and responding to their questions and requests should be considered a major part of your job responsibilities.”
If you work directly with clients, keeping regular tabs on your inbox comes with the territory. There’s nothing wrong with scheduling non-urgent client tasks for later in the day or week, but keeping the clients informed of your timeline must take priority.
3. Delayed email responses can inadvertently influence perceptions of your professional character in general.
Because many industries use email as their default form of communication, delaying your inbox review until later in the workday can easily impede the timeliness and, ultimately, the effectiveness of both you as an employee and your team as a whole. Making a habit of checking emails well after start-of-business can have lasting effects on your professional reputation, for reasons US News and World Report explains thusly:
“When you think about it, developing a pattern of waiting too long to reply to an email from your boss may cause him or her to decide you don't have the speed it takes to excel in your job. If you drag your feet on scanning your email and miss a deadline-driven message from a colleague, you could cause your entire team's project to tank. And a slow reply to clients could result in their company taking their business to a competitor who is perceived as more agile.”