The Lost Art of Handwritten Notes: How to Use Them in the Workplace
February 11, 2019

The Lost Art of Handwritten Notes: How to Use Them in the Workplace

In an age of digital everything, receiving handwritten notes is an anomaly.

Long gone are the days of handwritten letters to family and loved ones — originating the term "nothing to write home about," referring to the time involved in letter-writing—replaced by emails, texts, phone calls and video chats. When we think of handwritten notes, we're reminded of summer days spent running down the warm pavement toward the mailbox. Of our eager hands grabbing and quickly sifting through a thick bundle of envelopes, hoping that maybe, just maybe, there might be one addressed to us.

While the summer sun set long ago, that child-like excitement of receiving a handwritten letter remains. Little did we know then the value a handwritten note would eventually come to have in the workplace.

Here's why you should invest time in writing letters by hand for the good of your business.

It shows dedication and commitment.

If you've ever written a letter, you know how much time it takes to perfectly craft your words, paying careful attention to penmanship. Taking the time to do so says, "We know it's tedious, but you're worth the effort." Since we at J.O. are in the business of building committed client relationships, this is a powerful tool for reinforcing that commitment to our clients and making sure clients know we're willing to go the extra mile for them.

It makes you stand out.

J.O. founder and president, Jennifer Henderson, says she saves each and every one of the handwritten notes she receives. "The best ones come as a newspaper clipping or an article with a sticky note that says, 'This made me think of you.'"

While the myriad tireless emails seem ephemeral, handwritten notes like those last. They create networks of people that remain relevant over time and stand out among the rest. (Pro-tip: It's also a good way for candidates to stand out to prospective employers, by sending a quick thank-you note to their interviewers.) Soon, your little box of handwritten notes turns into a keepsake of the people you know really cared.

In her article in The Guardian, Charlotte Higgins poses an interesting question: "are we ready to fall back in love with slow communication?" Higgins goes on to explain that she once received a letter from a colleague. Her colleague not only thanked her for dinner, but also gave Higgins advice on a tricky work question—showing that she truly was thinking about the conversation they'd had. Through a thoughtful, handwritten note, Higgin's colleague showed a deeper personal relationship than could be conveyed through a quick follow-up email.

It shows creativity.

A contributor to The New York Times, Catherine Field, writes, "A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do."

As a creative agency, showing our dynamic creativity in unique ways is something we're always looking to do—and this is an easy way to communicate just how well we do that. Some businesses today even go so far as to hire letter-writers and calligraphers—people who can work with your company's brand and really make it jump off the page in a personal, engaging way. Our own staff prefers to do the letter-writing, as a personal check-in with our clients.

It is tangible.

In the same way a personalized letter creates a tangible piece of your brand, it also allows the recipient to visualize you, the writer. Field's previously mentioned article recounts her experience receiving letters from her colleague overseas. "The feel of her letter instantly breaks through time and space. Sitting with it in my hands, I immediately envision her." Can you imagine if we all were able to create such a profound connection with the people in our workplaces? Our networks would likely become much richer and deeper.

It just plain works.

The greeting card industry generates a billion dollars annually in the U.S. If revenue is indicative of value, then it's safe to say our culture really values the idea of a written card. But, do people in the workplace?

One story in Business Insider says, "absolutely!"

The former CEO of Campbell Soup, Doug Conant, once wrote more than 30,000 handwritten notes and letters to his employees. This was during a time when his company was failing—and he was convinced that creating a more personal environment to express gratitude to his employees and show he cared would be the answer. How many cans of Campbell Soup do you have in back stock in your pantry right now? Five? 10? We'd say his strategy worked.

While it may seem the place for handwritten letters is on the pages of history books or in stories about princesses and "prince charming's", recent history shows that leaving them in the past is a missed opportunity for businesses.

Whether you handwrite thank-you notes to clients, prospects, partners and vendors, or take a few minutes during your lunch break to attach a simple note on an article to share with a coworker, write something to someone. It may just make all the difference.

Sara Weiler
Public Relations Intern