With the advent of email, the business world has come together more than ever. For example, someone in Australia can send an email to someone in Europe, and the message will arrive almost instantaneously.
A few decades ago, this would have been impossible. The message first would need to be written or typed, placed into a mailbox, properly stamped and sorted, sent through various locations, shipped across the sea, and then might arrive weeks after it was first sent.
In that way, email has made the exchange of information much simpler for businesses and people alike. However, it has also created some difficulties in communication. People get tons of emails every day, from promotional emails to spam emails, work emails, and personal emails.
It takes time to go through all of those emails and respond to the important ones. For a company that has remote workers, this can also create some issues. If someone is working with a remote team, it’s important to be mindful that response times on emails will likely vary.
How long should email response time be when someone works remotely?
Since email responses might take longer, some business owners are reluctant to bring on remote teams. They aren’t sure what expectations to have about email communication times.
In some cases, an owner with remote workers could see a delay of a few minutes as a major cause for concern or an issue for the future. Some will even believe that it is a serious emergency.
One thing to keep in mind is that remote workers are just the same as the people who are inside the office. Those workers might be collaborating with other team members, chatting with a client on the phone, or focusing on important projects.
Considering all of those factors, remote team members often will not be able to respond to emails any faster than the people who are in the office. It could take seconds, minutes, hours, or even days. It all depends on priorities and workloads.
When should a business owner worry about response times?
When should a business owner worry about remote worker response times? Usually, it’s not a huge concern unless the person has missed critical emails or cannot be reached through other forms of communication.
Try to step back and give the other person some time. Most of the time, a few minutes (or even hours) won’t make a huge difference for the manager or the company as a whole. Give people a chance to respond before getting worried that this isn’t going to happen.
Results from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering study
A study done by the USC Viterbi School of Engineering looked at email responses to get a better idea of typical email behavior. The study encompassed studying over 2 million users who exchanged more than 16 billion emails over a few months. There were several interesting patterns to be aware of.
- Typical response time is under an hour: With most people using smartphones and tablets on the go, it’s easier than ever to respond to emails. The study shows that around 50% of replies are sent in under an hour.
- When responses are unlikely: If it’s been more than 48 hours, the likelihood of getting a response to an email drops dramatically. If the person who was sent an email doesn’t reply within 2 days, they likely won’t do so later.
- Teens respond the most quickly: It might not be surprising to learn that teenagers are often the quickest to respond to emails. In fact, younger individuals often reply in 13 minutes or less.
- Young adults also have good response times: For people between 20 and 35, the response time goes up a bit to 16 minutes. Looking at people ages 35 to 50, the response time averages about 24 minutes.
- Older people take the longest to respond: People who are over 50 tend to take 47 minutes to reply to emails. On the other hand, they often respond with longer messages than those who are younger.
- Gender has a small effect: Women often take about 4 minutes longer to respond to emails than men do.
- Platform differences: Mobile phone users tend to respond to emails in half the time as those who are using a laptop.
Additional factors to keep in mind
There are other things to keep in mind, too. If 2 people have been emailing back and forth for quite a long time, there are often signs that the conversation is about to end.
At the start, users mimic each other in terms of how long the email will be. Someone who sends 3 paragraphs will often expect to get a similar amount back.
This synchronicity usually breaks down toward the middle of a conversation. If the other user’s emails change, this may mean they are not as interested in continuing to chat. A longer-than-usual delay usually signals the conversation is over.
How long should someone wait to respond to business emails?
To put it in the simplest terms, it’s best to respond as quickly as possible. However, if at all possible, workers should respond within 24 hours. Even in a situation where a long response can’t be sent, a note can be to let the person know a response is coming when the time is available for one.
People who manage remote workers have expectations about response time with email. It’s impossible to send out an instant email every time one comes in.
However, sending it out as quickly as possible is recommended. If it takes hours or days, it seems as if the person responding doesn’t consider the email important.
A quick response gives insight into how someone will communicate and work as an employee in the future. Everyone prefers to work with people who are thoughtful and respond to messages as quickly as they can. The quicker the response made, the better the impression on the initial sender.
Thoughts for senders of emails
It can be difficult to let go of the assumption that an instant response will be provided. However, that kind of goal is only going to stress the person sending the initial email.
If a response isn’t sent back immediately, avoid being the person who sends out a reminder email in 30 minutes. This can make a person appear to be someone who is overly demanding.
The recipient might be out of the office, in a meeting, or trying to meet other commitments and deadlines.
The same applies if someone is impatient and makes a phone call soon after sending an email. If the situation is critical enough to require that, making the phone call first is generally the better option.
When communicating with remote workers, there’s nothing wrong with having an expectation that emails will be answered as promptly as possible.
However, also be aware that people may be busy for all sorts of reasons. Other activities and responsibilities may require all of the person’s attention. The recipient might be out of the office, in a meeting, or trying to meet other commitments and deadlines.
If the email is urgent, note that in the message
When it comes to receiving email responses from remote workers, it can take some time. One employee might always get responses out within minutes, while others could take hours, depending on the situation. If a follow-up email needs to be sent out, wait at least 24 hours after the initial email was sent.
It’s important to be courteous to the people who are emailed and give them some time to respond. If there is a date-specific or deadline-driven need for input, make sure that is noted in the email. For situations where 24 hours might be too long for a response, consider using another means of communication, like the phone.
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