Email has revolutionised the way businesses communicate with one another, eliminating the need for lengthy postal services and instead allowing for almost instantaneous communication between countries. Fifty years ago, sending a letter from Taiwan to the United States typically involved typing out the letter, taking it to the post office, having it stamped and sorted, and waiting for it to traverse through several states, as well as potentially crossing oceans. Now, emails sent from Taiwan to the United States arrive in close to real time, allowing for a much more efficient and timely exchange of information.
It is undeniable that electronic mail has simplified the process of transmitting information; however, it has also presented novel challenges in communication. Especially for businesses that employ remote personnel, the amount of emails present in an individual’s inbox can delay the response time to important messages, thus creating a problem.
Depending on how busy they are, remote team members may take longer than usual to respond to emails.
How Long Should You Wait Before Replying to an Email?
Due to the uncertainty that surrounds digital communication, many business owners are reluctant to recruit remote employees. Managers of organisations that employ remote personnel can view even a short delay in response times as a severe issue or a cause for concern, if not an emergency.
Remote team members are no different than any other employee in the organisation. They may be collaborating on projects with other members of the team or speaking with customers. Thus, the speed of response may vary from a few seconds to a few days depending on the urgency and complexity of the task. It is important to note that a remote worker’s response time should not be any different than that of an employee located in the office.
Only after a remote worker has missed many mission-critical emails or is otherwise inaccessible should you get concerned about response times.
If/When You Should Be Concerned
When managing remote employees, it is important to take into account their response time via email when planning. However, if an employee fails to answer emails that are essential to their job and does not answer their phone, then managers should be concerned. It is important to communicate clearly the expectations of communication from the start of the employee’s career. If a remote team member is not responding to critical emails, it is essential to investigate the root cause of the issue.
It is essential to create a structured process prior to embarking on a project with a remote team, in order to ensure that all members are aware of the expectations and objectives. When individuals are not physically present, they may miss the signs of a problem developing, leading to delays in progress. Therefore, it is imperative to define clear goals and timelines from the outset. It is also important to remember that, even for the most dedicated remote workers, there may be obstacles in the form of time zone discrepancies and a high volume of work to contend with.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that there are other methods of communication and resources available for remote employees beyond email. If you are concerned about the commitment level of a remote worker, staying in regular contact via telephone or video conferencing could help to alleviate any worries you may have.