5 moments when email transparency is the best policy

Adopting email transparency can be the best move your team makes.

In 2013, when Stripe told the world how they dealt with emails internally, it shocked a lot of people: You all read each others’ emails?

The concept of working on email as a team — or even directly sharing your emails — has sparked curiosity in a lot of people. Teams like Buffer and Khan Academy have written about how adopting email transparency transformed their teams for the better, and more and more organizations are giving it a try.

Today, the idea of email transparency is a lot less jarring, and at Front, we think it’s one of the best moves your team can make: it builds trust within your team, sets a foundation for a transparent work culture, and scales easily as your company grows. Here are five moments when email transparency is awesome.

5 benefits of email transparency

1. When you hire someone new, or get new clients 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

Whether you’re new to a team or just getting new clients on your existing team, training and onboarding can be a hassle. Often, a lot of email forwarding needs to happen to get up to speed.

Email transparency makes this simple. Just provide new hires or teammates with new clients access to the shared folders they need in Front. That way they can actually see the history of all that was received, all that was sent, and all the internal discussions that took place for that client — no forwarding needed. Transparent emails mean teammates are instantly feel in the loop, enabling them to jump right in and work more independently.

2. When you’re developing your product roadmap 🗺️

Front is a SaaS company. And as with all SaaS, our product is always evolving. Front customers send us feedback all the time, and we love it. In our team, like most, the people who receive and respond to that feedback aren’t the same people who are creating the product. Giving your product, design, and engineering teams access to the feedback that’s coming in to our customer teams helps bridge that gap. We created team tags in Front for messages that contain feedback, that way we can easily categorize and share all those messages with our product team.

When we have roadmap meetings (check out our roadmap), there’s no debate what customers want most — the whole team has seen what customers are asking for or are having trouble with. We can hash out what’s coming next so much faster because we all have insight into what our customers need.

3. When you want to head to Tahiti ✈️

Email transparency eliminates the stress, confusion, and weirdness around taking vacation for your team. With Front, you can simply assign any open conversations you’ve got in your shared inbox to another teammate before you leave. Then, set a rule to automatically assign new messages to the rest of your team while you’re out. For your individual email, you can easily assign threads that need attention to teammates, without the hassle of forwarding messages before you leave. This brings all sorts of benefits:

  • Getting work covered is painless for you. Teammates have more visibility into your work already, so there’s less work to do to fill them in. No forwards, no nonsense, no pre-vacation mental breakdowns.
  • Covering work is hassle-free for your teammates, too. Everyone already has access to your threads, so they can find context to answer questions faster. You can also leave internal comments on threads to explain situations to your team.
  • Customers also get a seamless experience. Instead of giving customers two weeks of radio silence, you can send them customized out-of-office replies or automatically assign emails to your team to respond.
  • More relaxing vacation means happier employees. Since you’re confident your work will get covered seamlessly, your time in Tahiti is more enjoyable, and you can truly relax.
  • Happy employees = happy culture. When you’ve gotten some relaxing time off, you know your company cares about your happiness in life overall, and you’re more likely to stick around and keep doing great work.

4. When you’re breaking the news 🔊

Using a shared inbox means everyone has more insight into each others’ work — the good and the bad. This reduces unwanted surprises for your team, and it creates a more “in-it-together” feeling on the whole.

When that project you’ve been working on for months isn’t going so hot, people already know about it, and they have a little background on what went wrong. Blame for poor results doesn’t feel isolated to one person or one team — everyone feels like they have a little more stake in things.

On the flip side, when there’s good news to share, people can get a glimpse into the hard work that went into something, so you can join in the celebration and learn from each others’ successes.

5. When you’ve got a massive to-do list ☑️

With transparent emails, your team can work more efficiently because you can use each others’ strengths. If George is really great at writing cold emails, wouldn’t it be better to have him take a look at your draft? Or since Shauna knows every nuance of your product, wouldn’t she be able to explain it to your customer faster?

Front makes this kind of quick collaboration easy, because you don’t have to forward anything to get stuff done. Instead of forwarding messages (and clogging your inboxes even more) simply assign a message to a teammate and leave an internal comment for context, directly in your email thread.

This is great for two reasons: First, since you’re getting messages into the hands of the person who’s best-suited to answer, you’re not wasting time trying to write a reply. Second, it means your customers get better replies, because you’re using the collective brains of your whole team to get them the best answer possible.

Email transparency helps bring your team together. When everyone feels in the loop, you can make better decisions and give customers a better experience overall.