The holidays are a break from the office, but emails follow us everywhere – if we let them.
Solar22 | Istock | Getty Images
Should you check your emails on vacation or face a tsunami of messages back at work?
For workers at war with their inboxes, neither is a great option.
This is why many people choose something in the middle. But even monitoring emails during the holidays “is almost always a bad decision,” said Zachary Weiner, CEO of marketing firm Emerging Insider Communications.
“Once Pandora’s box is opened, you usually find yourself having to react, putting out fires, unwittingly spending hours and hours,” he said.
Still, around 84% of white-collar workers do, and more than 70% sort through messages from three or more platforms — like Teams, Slack and WhatsApp — said work-life balance consultant Joe Robinson.
“Everyone is paddling out there in this tidal wave,” he said. “We’re doing everything wrong. That’s why everyone is so tired.”
Robinson launched an “email response campaign” earlier this month to address issues such as “holiday email panic,” he told CNBC Travel.
According to a worker survey he conducted in April:
- 25% skipped holidays to avoid email backlog when returning to the office
- 34% cut their holidays short for the same reason
- 87% support a company policy of logging off after work, except in an emergency
One company doing it right is the Mercedes-Benz Group, which allows employees to automatically delete incoming emails while on vacation, he said. (Out of office messages also notify senders that messages have been deleted.)
“I meet tons of people who are exhausted from email,” said Joe Robinson, speaker and career consultant. Managers and “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 company.
Robinson advises companies to create defined email policies, ideally ones that allow workers to not check email while on vacation.
Gates Little, CEO of US lender altLine Sobanco, agreed, adding that leadership should lead by example.
“If your boss is still answering emails while he’s away, don’t you think you’d be expected to do the same?” he said. “Whereas a boss who preaches work-life balance will lead by example by not responding to emails until they return.”
1. Complete the dates on your “Out of Office” auto-response
Set up an auto-reply with your vacation calendar and co-worker contact information for urgent emails, but turn it on a few days before and after your vacation dates.
“When you expand your OOO autoresponder to encompass the days before and after the holidays, you can enjoy your time feeling less stressed,” said Shawn Plummer, founder and CEO of financial and insurance agency The Annuity. Expert.
2. Select an “email partner”
A “courier partner” solves two problems, said Jack Underwood, CEO of delivery software company Circuit. You can leave with peace of mind and avoid “an endless backlog of emails to sift through” when you return.
Joe Robinson advises “partners” to only tackle emergency emails, to avoid overloading them. And Emerging Insider’s Weiner recommends asking your “partner” to text — not email — to discuss pressing matters.
3. Define filters
Stanislav Khilobochenko, vice president of customer service company Clario, uses filters to distinguish between urgent and irrelevant emails. He said, “I’ve set up as many filters as possible so emails that come in while I’m away are already sorted by priority.”
Kim Rohrer, senior HR partner at HR firm Oyster, said she discovered her best pro tip over email during her 24-day honeymoon in 2011.
It sets up two filters:
- Send all messages to the archive and mark them as read
- Send all posts with “README” in the subject to a special “README” folder
Via auto-reply, she informs senders that she archives all emails while on vacation. She forwards urgent emails to a co-worker, but requests that non-urgent “would you like me to read…when I get back” emails be forwarded to her with “README” in the subject line.
“I once checked and had received over 3,000 emails after two weeks of vacation, but I only had four emails in my ‘read later’ folder,” he said. she told CNBC Travel, which “shows how much false urgency is affecting our workloads.”
4. Mute Notifications
To turn off the job, turn off email notifications and messaging systems, said Christy Pyrz, director of marketing for supplement company Paradigm Peptides.
“Do yourself the favor,” she said. “Mute apps.”
Mrigaa Sethi, pictured here with his wife, Erin (left), in Sri Lanka, said the two used to work during the holidays. “This time we deleted our messaging apps and turned off notifications and had the time of our lives.”
Source: Mrigaa Sethi
But travel editor Mrigaa Sethi goes even further. “Delete the apps! Email, Slack, Teams…be absolute. Don’t leave the door ajar.”
They said they understood the urge to check their emails daily to avoid email backlogs, but “I know myself well enough that any news would make my head spin.”
If you can’t detach yourself from your inbox, follow these tips to reduce your email time:
1. Set designated times
David Ly, CEO of Nasdaq-listed technology company Iveda, said he checks his emails daily while on vacation.
“Whether I’m on vacation or not, I try to stay disciplined, setting aside specific time for myself,” he said.
Jonathan Zacharias, founder of digital marketing agency GR0, suggests doing “a quick check-in once a day.”
And Andrew Meyer, founder and CEO of digital energy advisor Arbor, recommends choosing early morning or late evening “so you don’t miss any of the day’s activity.”
2. Don’t respond (if you don’t have to)
Emails proliferate like rabbits, said Joe Robinson. On average, each email sent triggers five additional messages, and everyone takes three minutes of your time, he said.
“You save 18 minutes with every email you don’t send,” he said.
And stop sending one-line emails like “thank you” and “understood,” he said. “People still have to open this.”
For Brian Lee, founder and CEO of tech sports card company Arena Club, not responding to emails during the holidays sets a clear boundary. “People will respect your time more,” he said.
Denise Hemke, chief product officer of employee monitoring company Checkr, said her company was blocking off time to catch up on post-holiday emails.
“We ask our employees to spend a few days just focusing on their emails before getting back to business,” she said. “It helps them catch up quickly and efficiently, without feeling overwhelmed by an overloaded inbox when they return to work.”
Brian Binke, CEO of recruitment firm The Birmingham Group, said his company was also giving employees time to catch up on emails after travel.
“We want our employees to relax as much as possible while on vacation,” he said.