When is the best time to send a work email?

Unconventional messaging strategy yields high open rates but risks office harmony

Is sending an email on a Sunday a good way to boost opening rates or a breach of boundaries? Bloomberg
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The best time to send an internal email to makes sure it gets opened is on a Sunday, specifically between 3pm and 6pm.

An Axios HQ study has thrown up the unexpected revelation that might prove both advantageous and contentious for professionals navigating the corporate world.

However, while this discovery might improve workplace productivity, it may also sour your relationships with colleagues.

The analysis, based on a sample of 8.7 million emails, revealed that 94 per cent of emails sent during this window were opened.

This dramatic percentage significantly outperforms messages sent at other times, which garner open rates ranging between 50 and 76 per cent.

“Sending an internal email during low-competition times, like Sunday night, can ensure they are top of mind – and top of inbox – during your reader's most available hours, such as first thing Monday morning,” Axios said.

However, experts warn that this tactic may lead to heightened stress levels, particularly in light of the increased online communications induced by the pandemic.

Matthew Davis, Associate Professor at Leeds University Business School, highlighted a “techno invasion” phenomenon where work-related technology invades personal life.

“My worry would be if people see this and think ‘I’ll start sending these more routinely on a weekend'. Because for some people, it’s fine … but there is a good proportion of people that this will add to that sense of a burden,” said Mr Davis.

Emma Russell, reader in occupational and organisational psychology at Sussex University and director of agiLab, stressed that respect for boundaries was vital for maintaining a healthy work environment.

“Our research shows that it is not a badge of honour to be emailing people outside of working hours and expecting a response,” she said.

Ms Russell is set to publish a paper in the Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology further emphasising the importance of respecting colleagues' accessibility and contact boundaries.

While a complete ban on Sunday emails may be too rigid for some, as certain employees prefer to deal with a cleared inbox on Monday mornings, alternative solutions are suggested.

These include using separate work email apps that can be closed during the weekend, disabling notifications, or using footers indicating that emails need not be read during off-hours.

For management, however, the recommendation is clear.

“Line managers should role model when they send email so that it’s clear that there is no expectation for people to use digital communication outside working hours,” said Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Several companies and governments worldwide have introduced policies to limit out-of-hours communication.

Notable examples include Volkswagen in Germany, Lidl in Belgium and Axa in France.

France has instituted a “right to disconnect” law, enabling employees to dodge messages outside contracted hours.

Atos, a French technology company, banned all internal emails in 2011 after finding that managers were spending up to 20 hours per week dealing with email correspondence.

Updated: August 03, 2023, 12:56 PM