If you’re looking for the best time to send an internal employee email, you have about a billion articles out there with research-backed insights on optimal send times. There’s just one problem—all of their research focuses on marketing emails, not internal employee emails.
We’ve reviewed studies from Hubspot, Coschedule, MailChimp, and other popular marketing platforms and they all have excellent data on the best time to send email for marketing—but can these findings be applied to internal email?
Now, we are all for communicators hopping on the marketing bandwagon, and trying out marketing tactics to increase engagement and the quality of their content, but when it comes to making data-based decisions about your email strategy, should you be making assumptions based on this data?
We decided to put this data to the test and compare it with our own research on internal email interactions to find out once and for all.
Our research is based on over 26 million interactions with internal emails from our system (check out the infographic here). We were able to capture when emails were sent, the engagement levels they were seeing, and some surprising trends.
Why does send time matter?
You’ve probably heard you should never send an internal email on a Friday afternoon, or the worst time to send something you want employees to act on is during their first hour back at work on a Monday morning.
But, how true is this?
Most email opens happen within the first hour of the email arriving in an inbox. But, if you send at an inopportune time, while other daily tasks are competing for employees' attention, they may open, but may not have time to engage or respond.
Or your email may get buried during the day when employees are focused on more pressing issues; despite their best intentions to open it and respond, your email could be put it off and forgotten.
When are Internal Communicators sending the most emails?
First, we wanted to establish a baseline, so we looked at when internal comms folk using Banantag were sending the most email.
The highest number of emails were sent in the middle of the week—Wednesdays between 9:00 AM and 12:00 PM).
But there were also comparable spikes in sending for late morning each day of the week (except on Mondays, where early morning sending between 6:00 AM and 9:00 AM was most popular).
Contrary to the internal comms folk-wisdom that is floating around, we were also surprised to see a lot of internal emails sent on Fridays.
Otherwise, the data we captured jives pretty well with the research we found about the best time to send marketing emails, which generally recognizes mid-morning Tuesday as the best time to send an email if you want it read and opened.
However, some research also suggests that sending marketing emails early Monday morning leads to poorer email performance because people are all bummed out and feeling overwhelmed by the bombardment of emails at the start of their work week. Other sources debunked this research and argued that most people actually experience more professional and emotional stress on Tuesdays, so sending on a Tuesday morning may be just as bad as sending on a Monday morning.
Bottom line: Internal communicators seem to be sticking to schedules similar to marketers when it comes to sending employee emails. But because of conflicting research, it’s hard to say if this is a good thing or a bad thing.
But these are just when internal employee emails were being sent, not when they were opened or how well they performed, which we will look at next.
How does send time affect internal email open rates?
The average open rate for internal emails sent during working hours was 79% (which blows marketing email open rates straight out of the water, by the way) and results across the board were fairly close to this average, with high points on Monday and Tuesday afternoon.
We also noticed that there are slightly higher open rates for emails sent earlier on in the week (Monday through Wednesday). But those emails sent on Friday still performed well on average—achieving open rates of almost 80%.
Why are open rates so similar?
You probably noticed that the day-to-day and time of day variance in the data represented above isn’t too drastic. For example, there is only a 7% difference in opens for emails sent early morning across the week, and even less of a difference between emails sent at other times of day across the week.
So does it really matter when you send?
When it comes to internal emails, if they are important and relevant, most people will eventually open them—though some opens and clicks will be delayed, because life happens.
And even though a 7% difference in opens across the week, or 16% opens difference between times of day, doesn’t seem like a lot, on a list of 1000 employees that means the difference of 160 more people reading the email. That’s significant.
Should you send internal employee emails after hours?
We also observed higher than average open rates for emails sent after hours (between 6 PM and 6 AM). But does that mean you should be sending emails to employees after hours?
Popular marketing research says these are some of the best times to send emails for opens and replies because there is less competition in the inbox and people have more time to respond, but we are hesitant to recommend this tactic for employee emails.
There’s a lot of good reasons not to send emails to employees after normal work hours (mostly because people need time off to not think about work and research shows work emails can be a significant source of stress) but it depends on the culture you are looking to cultivate, and your email policy.
Also, just because it was sent after or before normal work hours, at 5:00 AM, for example, it doesn’t mean it was opened at that time. If your employees are not inclined to check their emails after work hours, it might make sense to schedule emails before people start for the day. It could pay off to be the first email in the inbox before the bombardment of emails comes in.
Using your internal email data to find out the best time to send emails
You can sift through as much external data as you want, but the truth about when the best time to send internal email is in your company can only be revealed in YOUR data. Data is meant to give you insight into what strategies and tactics work best for you, and you should make decisions based on your internal email data.
Measuring re-opens and engagement on internal emails over timeIf you’re using Bananatag for employee email tracking, you can get insight on how specific emails perform using The Activity Distribution graph. This report, as shown below with anonymous data, lets the sender see when opens and clicks for a specific email occurred on a timeline:
The graph above shows an internal email sent on Monday at 2:00 PM. The initial spike of opens is at the send time, and with each passing day there is continued (decreasing) engagement until the graph flattens out.
You may also find that your data will debunk some old internal comms myths. We used Bananatag to look at what kind of activity you can get for re-opens and engagement on an email sent on Friday at 4:00 PM.
There’s a similar spike in opens when the email is sent, and engagement flatlines on the weekend (we expected this). But after the weekend, the engagement picks back up and decreases day over day moving forward (similar to the pattern for the Monday email).
Wouldn’t employees forget about the Friday email if they didn’t open it last week?
Not according to our data. Most of those unread Friday emails in employee inboxes still get opened on Monday mornings.
Ways to increase opens and clicks on internal email
Let’s say you’ve found the day and time with the highest opens and engagement rates for your company. And you’re a bit disappointed. It turns out that even at your peak days and times, you still aren’t getting the open numbers you were hoping for.
What’s a rockstar internal comms professional like yourself to do?
The first and easiest thing you can do is set a regular delivery schedule. If employees know that there is a company newsletter that comes every morning at 9:05 AM, they will come to expect it. If they know it is coming and is chock-full of important information for their week or the day, they will value the consistency and budget the time needed to engage.
The second thing you can do is to maintain an editorial calendar. This will help you figure out at what times you should be sending emails throughout the week or month, so you can avoid bombarding employees with emails. A good editorial calendar is an essential piece of a good strategy because it respects employees' time, energy, and workload.
When is the best time to send internal emails?
So after all the data is gathered, what did we discover is the best time to send internal emails?
We know you aren’t going to like this, but it’s the truth:
There are a number of factors that all need to be weighed in order to pick the best time for your company. And as much as we would love to give you a blanket statement about what time of day or week is best, it won’t be much help if you aren’t also considering the following:
Is your workforce desk-based? Do they have constant connection to their emails? Do they work normal hours and work weeks or do they have rotating shifts or desk time? Do employees in your company or industry send and receive a lot of emails? Are they accustomed to receiving emails throughout the day?
Further, are they segmented? Do they work in different time zones that need to be taken into account?
2. Your goals
Do you just want employees to read the email, or do you want them to respond or click?
Are you trying to engage employees and cultivate a particular culture, or are you trying to communicate policy change or company-wide initiatives?
3. Your culture
Does your company make work-life balance a priority? Then it might be contrary to your company culture to be sending emails after hours and expect responses or engagement.
On top of that, how many emails are you sending? Are you sending once per week, or once per month? Or are you sending multiple emails per week? What kind of emails are you sending?
Conclusion: It depends.
Your audience, goals, and culture should all inform your email strategy and when you choose to send employee emails.
Timing your emails thoughtfully is a good way to show that you are cognizant of your employees’ needs, time, and workflow while increasing clicks, opens and most importantly, engagement.
And though there is a lot of information out there about the best time to send marketing emails, we’ve found it doesn’t exactly apply internal employee email. The only way to find out the best time to send internal emails for your company is going to be by evaluating your own open and clicks data.