From multinational corporations to small mom-and-pop businesses, most companies regularly send some sort of internal newsletter, bulletin, or notice to their employees via email. But for all the effort that typically goes into creating these communications, little thought is often given to when the emails should be distributed. But why spend so much time carefully crafting an email’s content if no one is going to even open it?
Identifying the ideal time frame to send internal emails is a tricky, yet very important task. Depending on the audience, increasing open rate by just 1% can be a difference of 1 extra reader or 1,000 extra readers. And when the email contains important internal information, every extra reader represents a boost to workplace engagement.
Unfortunately, it can be fairly difficult to determine your ideal time to send internal emails. Unless you are a mega-corporation sending dozens of communications every week, it will take some time to collect enough data to provide any useful findings. Furthermore, nearly every publication you are likely to find in a quick Google search focuses on email marketing, rather than internal communications, and the advice doesn’t translate over as well as you’d hope.
Luckily, we were able to use a year and a half of internal communications data to determine the best time frames for sending newsletters and other internal emails.
To answer our own questions on optimal internal distribution time, and to help you improve your own internal distribution practices, we took a look at our biggest email client.
We manage internal communications for one of the largest international hospitality chains in the world. This provides us the ability to analyze A LOT of internal email data, beyond what our own weekly agency newsletter would provide.
For the purpose of this exercise, we looked at open rate data for every internal email that we distributed to our client over the past 1.5 years. In total, this encompassed about 400 emails sent to nearly 1 million recipients.
Naturally, the content and exact audiences for these emails vary a bit, but given the sheer volume of communications and the consistency of our distribution window (about 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.), we were able to draw some general best practices from our analysis.
Friday proved to be the best day to send internal emails, as the 63% open rate at the end of the week was 5 percentage points higher than the next best days.
This makes some sense if you think about it. Friday is often a day of finishing work, rather than starting it. As you wrap up the week’s work and as anticipation for the weekend slowly creeps into your mind, you’re probably more likely to spend some time poking around in your email than you would on days with more pressing matters. Friday can also be a catch-up day in which you finally get to clear your inbox of all those pesky unread emails that have built up throughout the week. A new email may catch your eye a bit more when it sticks out in the crowd, rather than when it can hide amongst so many members of its own unopened kind.
For the very same reasons, Monday isn’t necessarily a surprise as one of the worse-performing days with an open rate of 56%. The Monday morning onslaught of new emails is already a challenge without your company newsletter joining the battle. Employees are less likely to open internal communications when they have urgent items to attend to, and Monday is often when you start work on those important things.
If there is one true surprise from our results, it’s that Thursday holds the title for the worst open rate at 55%. Although not much lower than the three days preceding it, Thursday sticks out as having an open rate a full 8 percentage points below our best day. Is this a result of employees buckling down to provide themselves with an easier Friday? Or is this simply due to being bogged down from the workweek but not yet having that tantalizing hope of the weekend on the horizon? To be honest, we’re not entirely sure. But it’s certainly an interesting data point and one to keep in mind during your own internal email testing.
The results from our time analysis paint a pretty clear picture of what we’d expect an employee’s day to look like. The early morning (7 a.m. through 8 a.m.) has an expectedly low open rate of about 51% as many employees are likely still on their commute, and those who are already in the office are probably hard at work at something pressing. Once you move into the normal morning areas for most businesses (9 a.m. through 10 a.m.) open rate picks up to 57%. This is probably the time in which most employees are browsing their inboxes or otherwise have not yet become fully enveloped in their work.
The lunch hours (11 a.m. through 12 p.m.) represent an interesting shift as open rate drops to 53% at 11 before recovering a bit to 56% by noon. Whether it’s due to employees getting into the groove of their work just before a break or due to leaving the office for lunch, it’s clear that the middle of the day is a time to avoid for distribution.
The afternoon hours (1 p.m. through 3 p.m.) stand out as open rate increases rather dramatically to a high of 66% at 1 p.m. and remains high at about 60% for the following two hours. Regardless of if it’s due to employees checking their inboxes when returning from lunch, wrapping up the morning’s work, or taking more mental breaks in the afternoon, it is clear that this 3-hour window represents the most optimal time to send internal emails.
Finally, open rate falls back down to 54% by 4 p.m. That final hour of work is difficult for many of us, and it certainly isn’t uncommon to see a new email pop up at 4:47 p.m. and take an “it can wait until tomorrow” stance.
*Note that the times listed above represent full-hour time frames following the listed times. In other words, 7 a.m. represents data for all emails distributed between 7:00 a.m. and 7:59 a.m.
Breaking out our data by both day and time, we can create a few general time frames that are best for sending out internal communications. Cells that are missing a value did not have enough emails sent within that particular timeframe on that particular day to yield statistically significant data.
Friday from 1 p.m. through 2 p.m. proved to be the best time to send out emails, with an average open rate during that time of 67%. Get your communications to your employees on (what’s hopefully) their easiest day, right after lunch but before they potentially take off for an early weekend.
Friday from 9 a.m. through 10 a.m. offered another productive time frame to contact employees, with an average open rate during that time of 64.5%. Again, the comparative ease of Friday makes employees more likely to open emails, especially in the afternoon, but also when they get into the office in the morning.
Thursday at 1 p.m. stood out as the highest open rate of any time on any day at a very high 76%. However, open rates floundered the rest of the day, never eclipsing 60%. Overall, this is likely a result of coincidence or something specific to our client, but with that enticing high 70’s open rate, it may be worth testing on your own internal emails (just in case). The same can also be applied to Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Obviously, our data comes with the caveat that it is reflective of this one client. Naturally, all companies and workforces have their own distinct factors that could end up impacting email open rates on certain days or times. Whether impacted by work-from-home days, common meeting times, or simply the type of internal information being sent out, it is highly likely that the optimal distribution time will differ for every company.
That said, our recommendations should certainly serve as a starting point for your own testing. With nearly 1 million recipients spread across the United States, it is probable that your company’s employees are reflected in our results in one way or another.
Perform your own testing to see when the optimal time to send out your business’s internal communications is, and let us know your findings.
If you are interested in improving your internal or paid email campaigns, feel free to reach out! From company newsletters to intricate marketing automation campaigns, our team delivers when it comes to all things email.