Should you be checking your email while on vacation, or faced with a news tsunami when you get back to the office?
Neither is a good option for employees struggling with their inboxes.
That is why many people choose something in the middle. But even checking email while on vacation “is almost always a bad move,” said Zachary Weiner, CEO of marketing firm Emerging Insider Communications.
“Once Pandora’s box is opened, you usually have to react, put out fires and unintentionally spend hours and hours doing it,” he said.
Still, about 84% of employees do, and more than 70% triage messages from three or more platforms — like Teams, Slack, and WhatsApp — said Joe Robinson, work-life balance consultant.
“In this tidal wave, everyone out there is paddling the dog,” he said. “We’re doing everything wrong. That’s why everyone is so exhausted.”
An “Email Intervention”
Robinson launched an “email intervention campaign” earlier this month to address issues like “holiday email panic,” he told CNBC Travel.
According to a survey of workers he conducted in April:
- 25% skipped a vacation to avoid an email backlog when returning to the office
- 34% cut vacation time for the same reason
- 87% support a company policy that requires separation after work except in emergencies
One company that’s getting it right is the Mercedes-Benz Group, which allows its employees to automatically delete incoming email messages while they’re on vacation, he said. (Out of office messages also alert senders that messages have been deleted.)
“I meet tons of people who are burned out from email,” said Joe Robinson, work-life speaker and consultant. The managers and “the people at the top are… worse off.”
Source: Joe Robinson
According to Robinson, 95% of respondents said they would support a similar policy at their companies.
Robinson advises companies to create well-defined email policies, ideally ones that give employees permission not to check email while on vacation.
Gates Little, CEO of US-based lender altLine Sobanco, agreed, adding that leadership should lead by example.
“If your boss is constantly answering emails while you’re away, don’t you think the same is expected of you?” he said. “Whereas a boss who preaches work-life balance will set an example by not replying to emails until they come back.”
Start before your vacation
1. Enter the data in your automatic out-of-office reply
For urgent emails, set up an auto-reply with your vacation schedule and a colleague’s contact details – but enable it a few days before and after your vacation date.
“By extending your OOO auto-response to include the days before and after your vacation, you can enjoy your time with less stress,” said Shawn Plummer, founder and CEO of finance and insurance agency The Annuity Expert.
2. Choose an “Email Partner”
An “email partner” solves two problems, said Jack Underwood, CEO of delivery software company Circuit. You can leave with peace of mind, and when you return you’ll avoid “an endless backlog of e-mails to sift through”.
Joe Robinson advises “affiliates” to only handle emergency emails to avoid overload. And Emerging Insider’s Weiner recommends instructing your “partner” to discuss urgent matters via text message, not email.
3. Set filters
Stanislav Khilobochenko, vice president of customer service company Clario, uses filters to distinguish urgent emails from irrelevant ones. He said: “I’ve set up as many filters as I can so emails that come in while I’m away are already sorted by priority.”
Kim Rohrer, principal people partner at staffing firm Oyster, said she discovered her best email pro tip during her 24-day honeymoon in 2011.
It sets up two filters:
- Send all emails to the archive and mark them as read
- Send all emails with “README” in the subject to a special “README” folder
She uses an automatic reply to notify the sender that she is archiving all e-mails during her vacations. She forwards urgent emails to a colleague, but requests that non-urgent emails that say “You want me to read them when I get back” be resent to her with “README” in the subject line.
“I checked once and after a two-week vacation, I got over 3,000 emails, but only four emails in my ‘read later’ folder,” she told CNBC Travel, which “just goes to show how much false urgency there is affects us.” Workload.”
4. Mute notifications
To hide work, mute email notifications and messenger systems, said Christy Pyrz, chief marketing officer of dietary supplement company Paradigm Peptides.
“Do yourself a favor,” she said. “Mute apps.”
Mrigaa Sethi, pictured here with his wife Erin (left) in Sri Lanka, said both have a habit of working while on holiday. “This time we deleted our email apps and turned off notifications and had the best time ever.”
Source: Mrigaa Sethi
But travel editor Mrigaa Sethi goes one step further. “Delete the apps! Email, Slack, Teams… be absolute. Don’t leave the door half open.”
She said she understands the urge to check email daily to avoid email backlogs, but “I know myself well enough that even the smallest bit of news makes my brain buzz.”
Tame email while on vacation
If you can’t tear yourself away from your inbox, follow these tips to minimize email time:
1. Set specific times
David Ly, CEO of Nasdaq-listed technology company Iveda, said he checks his email every day while on vacation.
“Whether I’m on vacation or not, I try to stay disciplined and take my time,” he said.
Jonathan Zacharias, founder of digital marketing agency GR0, suggests “just do a quick check-in once a day.”
And Andrew Meyer, founder and CEO of digital energy consultant Arbor, recommends picking either early morning or late evening “so you don’t miss daytime activities.”
2. Don’t answer (if you don’t have to)
Email grows like rabbits, said Joe Robinson. On average, each email you send triggers five more messages, and each one takes up three minutes of your time, he said.
“Every email you don’t send saves you 18 minutes,” he said.
And stop sending one-line emails like “thank you” and “get it,” he said. “People have yet to open this.”
For Brian Lee, founder and CEO of technology sports card company Arena Club, not responding to emails while on vacation is a clear limit. “People will respect your time more,” he said.
Go back to the office relaxed
Denise Hemke, chief product officer at employee screening company Checkr, said her company takes time off after furlough to work on emails.
“We’re asking our employees to focus solely on their email for a few days before they get going again,” she said. “It helps them stay connected quickly and efficiently without feeling overwhelmed with a cluttered inbox when they return to work.”
Brian Binke, CEO of recruitment firm The Birmingham Group, said his company gives employees time to check email, even after travel.
“We want our people to relax as much as possible on vacation,” he said.
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