Email Etiquette in the 24/7 World

Today we can easily access the Internet, our email and social media with the touch of our fingertips thanks to smartphones. According to Movable Ink, 66 percent of all emails are first opened either on a smartphone or tablet. Now that people can get in touch within minutes and know their messages will be received almost immediately, how has the expectation of email response time changed?

A recent article on sparked interest in Bellevue’s office about “email etiquette” in the workplace, particularly regarding response times. Before the regular use of smartphones, it was common to take up to a whole day or two to get back to a colleague or client via email. Now, according to a  MailTime study, a majority of people expect a response to their work-related emails in a “timely fashion.”

The definition of a timely fashion” is open for interpretation, so I decided to do a quick poll around the office.

Coworkers—Be Courteous and Thoughtful

According to the High-Touch Communication’s blog, recipients expect an email response within the hour from coworkers.

At Bellevue, I discovered everyone responds to colleagues right away. According to London, responding to a coworker as quickly as possible shows respect. When I asked Diana, she explained that she prefers to just pop into someone’s office to ask a question.

Clients—Respond Quickly but Efficiently

During business hours, surveys show clients generally expect a response within four hours. Bellevue’s public relations professionals all agreed a client should be answered within the same workday.

Alex says professionals should at least acknowledge receipt of the message and include a time frame in which they will get back to the client if the question or task cannot be dealt with immediately.

Press—Drop Everything and Answer Immediately

If someone from the media responds to an inquiry, Diana says a public relations professional should answer immediately. Alex, Diana and London agree that journalists prefer prompt responses due to deadlines and public relations professionals need to be ready to jump on an opportunity.

I learned email etiquette varies depending on the recipient and that expectations have changed due to us living in a 24/7 world. According to the article, most organizations try and take the guess work out of company email etiquette by providing guidelines. What I’ve learned is that email response times affect professional appearance which means everything in the public relations industry.


Shannon Smith is a spring 2015 intern at Bellevue Communications Group. She is a senior at Rowan University, majoring in public relations and advertising and minoring in political science. Shannon is also the president of PRaction, Rowan University’s PRSSA chapter’s student public relations firm.