Boost Your Team Email Collaboration With These 10 Tips

Reem Abouemera
by Reem Abouemera

Email collaboration is vital for teams in today's business world. Without it, important tasks can slip through the cracks, and opportunities can be missed.

Most businesses aren't using email to its full potential, especially among small businesses.

Whether you're already using a shared inbox software or simply need to find a way to manage team communication more effectively, here are 10 simple ways to boost email collaboration within your team.

What Is Email Collaboration?

Quickly put, email collaboration is a practice where team members cooperate on emails, generally from a shared inbox, to share the workload.

Most shared inboxes are used for companies' shared aliases like support@ or info@ to enable teams to work together on emails. This can involve sharing information and updates, discussing ideas and decisions, and providing feedback and support to each other.

Some tools, with features such as commenting, collaborative writing, and sharing options, also make it possible to collaborate on personal emails.

Benefits of Email Collaboration

Having a good system of email collaboration comes with a lot of advantages for your business whether big or small. Some of you might think that your small team doesn't need it since you only have a few team members, but chances are they are responsible for multiple aspects of the business and will certainly need to collaborate on emails with a coworker at some point.

A good can help teams to streamline communication and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their work processes.

By collaborating on emails, teams can work together efficiently even if they are not in the same location. And since all team members have access to the same information and can see each other's contributions, transparency and accountability are also increased.

Common Drawbacks of Email Collaboration

Collaborating on emails brings a lot of benefits to your team, however, if you're using a tool like Gmail to manage your personal and team emails at work there are some downsides you should know about.

Gmail isn't great for team collaboration and can do more harm than good. The main drawbacks are:

  • No ownership: It's hard to assign people to emails and to have clear responsibilities. This can make it easy for emails to fall through the cracks or for team members to duplicate work. It's also hard to see who in the customer support team for example is working on an email. this can lead to duplicate work.

  • No centralized app: If you are using Gmail for work emails, you could start using Google Collaborative Inbox to manage shared emails. However, you would have to constantly switch between the two web applications. That's without mentioning having to learn a completely new tool with a different UI.

  • Less productivity: You can't view all the emails that are assigned to you. Also, your only option assigns an email to another person is by forwarding it. It translates to more emails cluttering your inbox.

  • No private discussion: While there are ways to add notes to Gmail, you can't send private messages to colleagues to exchange around a specific email internally. You'll be required to use email threads which can lead to other problems when misused.

Using software made for email collaboration like Missive can solve these problems and make sure that your company benefits from all the advantages of collaborating on emails.

10 Email Collaboration Strategies for Better Team Work

1. Establish a Process & Accountability

Having a process in place is key when it comes to email collaboration. Every team member should understand their role and managers need systems to maintain accountability.

That means that you should always be clear about who needs to do what by when.

For example, if you need someone to review a document, include specific instructions on what you'd like them to do and make it clear that they're responsible for completing the task. Deadlines should also be included whenever possible.

In Gmail, you could establish a streamlined process through the support of external documentation and SOPs so that your team knows exactly how to collaborate on email.

You could also make use of Google's "Tasks" app to keep track of deadlines and individual responsibilities. The problem with adding comments and notes to Gmail this way is that it’s still based on the individual and doesn’t lend itself well to collaborative work.

That’s where email clients like Missive, a tool built with collaboration features as a first principle, can be a game changer.

In Missive, you can do this by assigning emails or tasks to teams or individuals with a few mouse clicks (or keyboard shortcuts like ⇧ ⌘ K ), eliminating the need to CC or BCC anyone.

The email will automatically be added to the assignee’s inbox.

Assigning emails to teams and people in Missive.
Email Assignment in Missive

If you need functionality for due dates or additional data to be tracked, you can send tasks directly from Missive to popular project management apps like Asana, Trello, Todoist, and ClickUp.

Send Tasks with Due Dates to Popular Project Management Apps

2. Don't Share Email Accounts the Old Way

When you share an email account, it's difficult to keep track of who's responsible for what. Important messages easily get lost in the shuffle.

Instead, each team member should have their email account that they or can access. That way, everyone has a clear record of who’s responsible for what and who completed it.

But that doesn't mean that you can't still share information–you just need to do it more smartly. A collaborative email tool like Missive makes it easy to share emails and other information without actually sharing email accounts.

With Missive, you can add other team members to a shared team inbox so everyone can easily view and respond to messages together while simultaneously maintaining the integrity of their email accounts.

Screenshot showing chat interface inside Missive

You can even chat with each other right from the app so that you can quickly discuss important details and cut down on the back-and-forth context switching in other tools like Slack.

Screenshot showing various people chatting inside Missive

Missive gives you the best of both worlds: everyone's inbox remains segregated, yet still shareable for collaboration and accountability purposes.

3. Delegate, Don't Forward

When you need to pass along an email to another team member, it's tempting to just hit the forward button. However, that's not always the best course of action for email management.

Think about it: you're still on the hook when you forward an email thread.

If there's a problem with the task or questions to be answered for a customer, the email will have to go through you instead of the customer support team member who's responsible for the task, so you’re still the support POC for that task.

Instead of forwarding an email, delegate it.

Replying to someone with your delegate CC’ed is one way of doing things, but the problem is it’s common for your delegate to still have questions and need clarification. And when they do, an unruly chain of back-and-forth emails ensues.

Delegating through Gmail can be challenging because the only way to do it is through shared Google Workspace accounts or Google Groups.

Google’s collaborative inbox provides a central place for your team to communicate, and share documents, calendar events, and more.

But it still doesn’t solve the problem of having to forward emails back and forth whenever you need to discuss the context of an email with a coworker in the email itself.

Using chat is an option, but still requires you to add a bunch of contexts.

Google Groups collaboration dialog.
Trying to Collaborate in Google Groups

Delegation in Missive

Example of delegation inside Missive.

When you delegate things in Missive, you can use comments and chat to include specific instructions on what needs to be done—reducing the back and forth and confusion and improving workflow efficiency.

4. Use the SCQA Framework to Communicate Clearly

Graphic Showing the Minto Pyramid Principle.

Clear communication can dramatically boost team collaboration.

Here’s a useful model to apply when you need to convey an idea, respond to a question, delegate a task, or provide details around a situation in written communication.

Lead with the point of your communication (called the BLUF principle), followed by the details structured using the SCQA framework coined by McKinsey consultant Barbara Minto.

SCQA stands for Situation, Complication, Question, and Answer.

Here's how it all works together:

  • Lead with your point.
  • Situation: Start by succinctly describing the situation. You’re setting the stage here and facilitating alignment. Without stating the situation and establishing alignment, everything else you try to communicate about will fall apart.
  • Complication: Next, explain the complication. In other words, what's the pain point, motivation, or reason for action? Keep things fact-based.
  • Question: Now it's time to ask your question. Be as specific as possible. It should flow logically from the situation/complication. If you framed your situation/complication correctly, the question should almost sound rhetorical.
  • Answer: The answer should also be structured so that it relates to the situation/complication and directly addresses the question. It is the summary of your main idea or thought that you want to be conveyed.

A collection of excellent examples of this style of writing in different contexts can be found in this article over good business writing by Leonardo Fed.

When you use this framework across your communication channels, you can be sure that your emails are clear and concise. Plus, you'll avoid misunderstandings and save everyone's time.

5. Centralize Your Email

Centralization means having one place where all your team's email communication is stored—a central hub where your whole team can see all the emails sent and received by the team. Think of it as a group email but with separate emails for each person.

There are a few different ways you can do this.

One option is to use an email client like Microsoft Outlook or Gmail. Another option is to use a project management tool like Asana or Trello. But, each of these requires sacrifice in terms of collaboration or context-switching to make them work.

The easiest way to centralize email amongst a team is to use a collaborative email client like Missive.

With Missive, each user has a mailbox for their account but the admin can also set up a shared mailbox (such as a team account) that all users can access and respond from. That way, everyone can see the same emails and there's no need to forward messages or CC everyone.

You can also manage communication from channels other than emails like WhatsApp, SMS (via Twilio), and social media channels like Instagram and Facebook Messenger.

Missive's social media integrations

The benefit of using a centralized system is that it makes it easier for the entire team to stay up-to-date on the latest email conversations in their mailboxes in a single place.

Plus, it's easier to search for old emails when you need to reference them. And the best part is that emails can be broken down into smaller tasks or projects, making it easier to stay organized and encouraging teamwork.

6. Use Shared Email Templates

When you're sending emails to clients or customers, it's important to be consistent. That means using the same language, tone, and format for all your communications.

One way to ensure consistency is to use shared email templates. These are email templates that can be accessed and used by anyone on your team.

Adding a response to a draft is easy with the search option.

Not only do shared email templates save you time, but they also help to ensure that your team is always on the same page. Plus, they can be customized to fit your brand's voice and style.

If you're using Gmail, for example, you'd have one of your team members develop a template following email etiquette for customer service. Then, you'd copy them to a shared repository (be that Google Docs, Notion, Guru, or similar.). Your team members can then add that template to their canned responses.

Great–but what happens when the template changes in the repository? Unfortunately, you'd have to inform your team members to update the template in their canned responses.

A better solution is to use a tool like Missive, which, when any user generates a template, stores that template in the repository and makes it available to everyone on the team. Plus, when someone updates a template, that change is pushed to everyone's account automatically. That eliminates the need for manual updates!

7. Share a Book of Contacts

If your team is constantly sending emails to the same people, it makes sense to create a shared book of contacts. This way, everyone will have access to the same contact information and you won't have to waste time searching for an email address every time you need it.

A shared book of contacts can be stored in a central location, like your email client, a CRM, or in a Google Sheet/Excel document stored in Google Drive or Dropbox that your team has access to.

However, adding contacts to a sheet and manually updating is laborious and a possible point of failure for many teams.

Missive has a built-in shared contact book that supports syncing with Office 365 and Google accounts. They also have options to sync data with other contact tools using no-code tools like Zapier and Make or by building your own custom integration with the Missive API.

Screenshot of Missive's address book feature.

When you add or update a contact in Missive, that change is immediately reflected for everyone on your team.

8. Use Shared Filters and Labels

If you're using Gmail, you can take advantage of filters and labels to segment and organize emails to find later.

For example, you could create a label called "Webinar Launch", which has a filter that includes all the emails sent and received by people on your marketing team that include specific keywords related to your campaign.

But the problem is that labels aren't shared across workspace accounts and must be set up manually.

This is made easier in Missive where you can share labels and filters with your team.

Screenshot of Missive's label functionality.

Shared filters and labels make sorting and organizing emails a breeze and ensure that everyone is on the same page. They also save you time that could've been spent setting up labels and filters manually.

9. Leverage Automation

It’s 2022. There's no reason to waste time on tasks that can be automated. You don't have to

You can set up auto-responses, snooze emails, and even create rules to automate email filing.

For example, in Missive, you can create a contact group in which you add spammers and use automation to automatically trash them the moment they hit your email inbox. Goodbye everyone out there with high-quality backlinks to sell. 👋

Screenshot showing the simplicity of setting up email filters in Missive

Imagine using built-in shortcuts to quickly insert a template or emoji into your email without having to leave your inbox. Or, setting up auto-responses so you can reply to common questions without having to type out the same message over and over again. Better yet, how about snoozing an email until a later time or date so you can focus on what's most important right now?

Screenshot of the dialog to set up automatic replying in Missive.
Using Rules in Missive to Automate Replying with a Template Outside of Business Hours

Automation can save you a lot of time and headaches, so it's worth considering if you're looking for ways to improve your team's email collaboration and internal communication without putting in a lot of extra work.

10. Write Collaboratively

Finally, one of the best ways to boost email collaboration for teams is to write collaboratively. Instead of sending individual emails back and forth, you can use a tool like Google Docs or Dropbox Paper to write and edit your emails together in real time.

Writing collaboratively has several benefits.

  • It saves time sending emails back and forth and trying to teach everyone that even Word Docs can be worked on in the cloud.
  • It also helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the final email is consistent with your team's style and voice while simultaneously giving new hires a useful way to learn how someone more experienced with the SCQA framework crafts an email.

However, doing the writing anywhere else other than your email client can introduce needless work for you and your team. You have to write, copy, paste, and then send, right?

With tools like Missive, you can write your emails collaboratively right from your inbox. That means you can avoid the extra steps and still take advantage of all the benefits of collaborative writing. Just write and send using Missive's Live Edit feature!

Screenshot Showing the collaborative writing function in Missive.
Etienne fixes a typo for Phil.

Ready to Take Your Team’s Email Collaboration to the Next Level?

Collaboration doesn't have to be a pain. By following these simple tips, you can boost email collaboration for your team and make everyone's life a little easier.

Whether you’re using ancient email clients like Gmail or collaboration software like Missive, you can find ways to eliminate wasteful manual labor and stay focused on what matters.

Start a free trial and give Missive a try. Your team will thank you for it.

Reem Abouemera

Follow me on LinkedIn