I only recently started working in an office environment. Apologies if this question seems obvious.

My company uses Skype for Business so I can see when my coworkers are in meetings/free/away/etc. I had a quick question for someone but noticed that she was marked as "Busy" so I sent an email instead so that it would not be as disruptive and not demand immediate attention. She answered quickly but afterward I saw that her status was now "Do Not Disturb".

Was it inappropriate for me to email her while she was "Busy" or was this likely coincidental? If someone is marked as "Do Not Disturb" should I not even email them? I am confused about when and how to contact my coworkers so that I do not bother them.

Edit: I am working in IT and am in the United States.

  • 1
    @Jessica I just added a "United States" tag to your question to make it a bit more clear. Thank you for the edit, and again, welcome. Jun 21, 2018 at 20:03

1 Answer 1


As a general rule, an email is always "safe" and are given lowest priority.

The order from most invasive to least in an office environment is:

  1. Going to someone's desk. This implies you need immediate attention
  2. Phone: The ringing will disrupt anything and it sends a message of something being somewhat urgent, but the person can always let it go to voicemail
  3. IM/Skype/etc a messanging app, is just a bit less invasive than a phone call, as the person can think before he or she answers you.
  4. Email. This is the modern equivalent of sending a paper memo, and the implication is that unless it is marked urgent, the person can get back to you when there is time to look at it and respond.

So, no, you did not do the wrong thing. In all likelihood, your coworker changed her setting to make it more emphatic. Perhaps she feared a follow up or some other disturbance, but it is up to the person setting their availability to do so in a proper manner.

If someone is marked "Do not disturb", it's usually still safe to email them, as an email is not considered to be a disturbance in most offices. If someone explicitly requests that you don't, it's another matter, but unless they do, it's safe.

  • 1
    @Jessica you are welcome. glad we could help. Jun 21, 2018 at 20:15
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    I would also add, that when set to "Do not disturb", some software doesn't make audible or visual (pop up) notifications to the user when getting emails.
    – curt1893
    Jun 21, 2018 at 21:00

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