Below is the first in a new PLUS blog series in question-and-answer format intended to address subjects that come up in everyday public affairs and public relations firms.
In meetings, previously in-person and now over Zoom, someone would routinely say to another colleague or client, we will get the document, creative, research or plan to you by close of business (COB) or end of day (EOD).
The vernacular is often used interchangeably without much thought to whether there is a distinction between the two. Therefore, a couple members of the PLUS team weighed in with their views on this matter for the sake of airing it out.
I believe there is a clear difference between COB and EOD. I find people tend to use either or both interchangeably, and in my mind, it can lead to miscommunication on occasion. In today’s business world with people tethered to their iPhones and working remotely, the traditional time stamps for the average business day have been blurred more so than they were pre-COVID.
That means that greater clarity on who is assigned to what and when the service will be performed and/or product delivered, is even more important, as in-person team meetings and popping into someone’s office is largely nonexistent. Follow-up requires a call, text, email, Slack, etc.
As far as COB, I view the close of business as the traditional time when professional employers cease operation and the markets have already ended regular trading hours. On the east coast, this is 6 PM. For many of us, until March 2020, that was about the time we got a drink with a peer or new business prospect or began the trudge home in D.C. traffic and crossed the bridge into the Commonwealth or wherever we call home.
As far as EOD, I view that as marking the day as a whole, meaning 11:59 PM prior to the clock striking midnight and a new calendar day beginning. Therefore, when EOD is used, the significance is that the product or service will be transmitted or undertaken that day, but not specifically during the normal course of business hours. In short, we’ll get it to you today, but it might be later in the evening.
With remote learning, families sheltered at home and greater burdens on parents than in recent memory, there are many professionals who close their laptops at COB, make dinner, check schedules, review homework assignments and put the kiddies to bed. They then pour a well-deserved glass of wine, crack back open their computers and review a document, tinker with a budget or finalize a proposal before sending it along after hours or EOD.
So be clear and communicate: COB means the completion of the traditional business day relative to the sender’s time zone and EOD means the conclusion of the calendar day relative to the sender’s time zone.
“A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”
Whether referencing the 1980s cult classic Wargames about nuclear war or having a debate about using End of Day or Close of Business in your emails, the answer is the same: don’t do it.
Sure, COB likely means the end of the normal workday, say 5 or 6pm. Likewise, EOD probably means the end of the actual day or before the clock strikes midnight.
But when you introduce work from home schedules, does the workday really start at 9am and end at 5pm? Unlikely.
And what about when working with someone on Pacific time vs. Eastern time? Which time zone does EOD then represent? In the real world, life quickly gets messy.
The solution? Don’t use EOD or COB at all.
Instead, state a specific, and unambiguous deadline like 5pm EST or 2pm PST. Or if you want more flexibility, say something like “this evening” or “later today.” Everyone is busy, stressed and distracted these days, so good communication should strip away confusion. That’s why it’s well past time to retire COB and EOD from our vocabulary.