3 Essential Elements of Effective Graymail Management

Legacy approaches to managing unwanted mail are neither practical nor scalable. Learn the 3 essential elements of modern, effective graymail management.
September 16, 2022

Innovative enterprises recognize that supporting employee productivity goes beyond the standard practices of things like providing the workforce with the right technologies and offering ongoing training. They understand that there are other opportunities to help employees be more productive that may not be as obvious—for example, helping employees tune out distracting material that lands in email inboxes.

Graymail is defined as the excessive promotional email that fills up employee and executive inboxes and diverts their time and energy away from more important tasks.

If graymail is getting to your employees and executives—a common side effect of displacing a secure email gateway in favor of Microsoft 365’s native security—you may be wondering how to get it out of the way. In this article, we outline three key considerations for effective graymail management and explore the important differences between using legacy technology and using a modern solution.

Sophisticated Graymail Detection

Among the biggest obstacles that organizations face when limiting unwanted mail is that the definitions of “wanted” and “unwanted” are different for every employee, and legacy technology is incapable of accounting for these nuances.

Using a legacy approach to managing graymail typically means choosing between one of two options—neither of which is particularly effective. The first is attempting to control graymail en masse with bulk email thresholds, similar to how an organization might filter spam. But unlike spam, which is universally considered a nuisance, graymail offers varying levels of value to different employees.

Ignoring individual preferences and treating all graymail the same will actually create more issues as users will inevitably be annoyed when emails they want to be delivered are redirected and vice versa. It will also require the IT team to dedicate multiple hours every week exclusively to configuring and tuning filtering rules and policies in response to a never-ending queue of one-off employee requests.

The other option is to place the responsibility of managing graymail on each individual employee—through quarantine portals and daily spam digests.

A modern approach to graymail management, on the other hand, involves using a solution that utilizes tens of thousands of signals from Microsoft 365 to build an organization-specific behavioral profile. By leveraging data on identity, content, and context as well as applying natural language processing, the technology can detect graymail with high accuracy.

Once a message has been categorized as graymail, the solution instantly moves it out of the employee’s inbox and into a specific folder. This approach helps reduce inbox volume across the organization and negates the need for employees to pore over daily spam digests or exit the native Microsoft 365 experience to access quarantine portals. It also frees the IT and messaging teams to focus on other priorities.

Adaptive Graymail Control

Nearly every platform and app we use in our personal and professional lives allows us to tailor the user experience (UX) based on our own preferences. And a growing number of solutions are starting to leverage AI to automatically customize the UX without any manual user intervention required.

Considering how much of the average employee’s day is spent reading and responding to emails, shouldn’t their inbox experience have the same level of personalization?

Legacy systems don’t have the functionality to learn from individual user behavior and adapt graymail control accordingly. Safelists and blocklists are one of the only kinds of user-level personalization available, and they must be manually built and maintained by the employee.

In contrast, modern platforms utilize API-based architecture and advanced behavioral AI to self-learn employee preferences. Using engagement data such as folder moves and open rates, the solution can determine which messages employees find valuable and important. With this insight, it can apply an intelligent, adaptive approach to controlling graymail that’s policy-free and customized for each inbox.

For example, say your marketing director and your sales director both receive a weekly HubSpot newsletter. If the marketing director regularly opens the email but the sales director usually just marks the message as read and files it away, then the former will see future HubSpot newsletters in her inbox while the latter will see them in a separate folder.

User-specific allowlists and blocklists are also automatically updated based on observed user preferences.

Email Productivity Insights

Nearly 60% of employees report expending a noticeable amount of their productive energy just on managing their inboxes, and 32% of employees have to dedicate at least one hour or more every day to sorting incoming emails. Employee inboxes are overflowing, and graymail is a major contributor.

Graymail accounts for approximately 13% of all messages employees receive, with the average employee receiving 23 graymail messages each week. And since executives receive 230% of the graymail volume that other employees receive, executive assistants spend as many as 16 hours every week reviewing promotional content.

Graymail has an undeniable impact on productivity. And organizations that use a legacy approach have no way to measure just how great that impact is.

A modern email security solution with features designed specifically to manage graymail provides visibility into important data points that demonstrate how graymail is affecting end-users and their productivity levels. IT leaders can take advantage of quantifiable insights, such as trends in daily graymail volume, graymail open rates, top graymail senders, and which employees and executives are the most frequently targeted to identify problem areas within the organization.

Dashboards and visualizations also help IT leaders understand how limiting unwanted mail yields time savings for executives and their assistants, the IT and messaging teams, and the workforce at large.

Solving the Headache of Graymail

The standard approaches to managing graymail rely on static rules and policies, spam digests, and quarantine portals are neither practical nor scalable. Modern enterprises need modern solutions. And the modern solution for effective graymail management is an API-driven, behavioral AI-based approach that removes graymail from your end-users’ immediate workflows.

To see how Abnormal’s Email Productivity add-on empowers you to put graymail on autopilot, schedule a demo.

3 Essential Elements of Effective Graymail Management

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