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How Fast Should You Reply to Work Emails?

Most people expect a reply within 12 to 24 hours — some a lot sooner

By Quentin Fottrell and MarketWatch

(This article appeared previously on MarketWatch.com.)

When you get a work email, do you (a) reply immediately, (b) let out an expletive or (c) think on it? And — what if it’s on the weekend?

 

 

In reality, people respond even more often than that. Nearly one-third of employees respond to emails at work within 15 minutes and almost one-quarter of people within 30 minutes, according to a 2013 survey of over 500 U.S.-based employees by research company Opinion Matters for GFI Software, a software and Internet security company. And 70 percent of workers use work email to send personal emails, too, even though they remain the property of the company and can be easily read by the IT department.

(MORE: 3 Ways to Boost Your Productivity)

 

The answer? Respond promptly.

Waiting 12 hours to answer a work email is one surefire way to lose business and alienate people. “Turnaround demand is at least twice that fast,” says Jonathan Bernstein, president of public relations consultancy Bernstein Crisis Management. “I have both landed and retained business because of how promptly I respond.”

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(MORE: 8 Technologies Boomers Need to Learn)

The One-Minute Rule

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, spent a year trying out studies and philosophies about what makes people happy: She recommends the “one minute rule” for all tasks so they take up less space in your head. If it takes less than one minute to respond, do it.

 

 

Quentin Fottrell writes for MarketWatch. You can reach him at [email protected]

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