Smartphones make checking work email super simple. Sometimes, it’s convenient. Other times, it’s straight up burdensome. When you’re on vacation and you know that your work email is piling up, it can be easier said than done to avoid checking it.
As you may have experienced this week, coming back from even a long weekend can feel brutal when you check your inbox. Depending on the type of work you do and where you work, it can take hours, or even days to get caught up on email.
Do you check your work email when you’re on vacation? Recent stats collected by HR consulting firm Randstad report that 42% of employees feel *obligated* to check their email during vacation.
Here’s the thing: you earned that vaca! It’s your time. And you shouldn’t feel guilty about taking it. Despite what you may believe, the world will not break when you’re away. You won’t become replaceable in a week’s time, and there won’t be that lone message that determines whether or not you get your next promotion.
Vacations are a time to unwind, and it’s important to set clear boundaries *before* you leave the office. While it might not feel like there’s ever a good time to be away from your job, the fact is, you’ll work better when you have some time off to recharge.
So, how do you keep from scratching that email itch? Here are some tips for before, during and after your vacation to ensure that you get your Me Time:
- Before you go on vacation, set clear boundaries.
- Prep your team and clients at least a week before you leave by giving them a deadline for any requests.
- Ask them not to contact you while you’re away. This will help keep you from receiving a bunch of unnecessary messages, and you’ll return to less clutter.
- Create an out-of-office message and provide a secondary contact. It can be simple: “I’m out of the office and not checking email until ___ and in the meantime, please contact ___ if you need urgent assistance.”
- While you’re away, delete delete delete.
- If your office allows, remove your work email from your phone completely. In most cases, it’s simple to reinstall, and this eliminates the possibility of getting sucked in after taking a “quick look.”
- If you absolutely must monitor your messages:
- Block a specific time of day to check your email, and limit it to no more than 2 hours. Maybe it’s in the early morning before the day gets busy, and before your travel partners are awake so that you can focus.
- Aim to keep your inbox trim, and delete as many unnecessary messages as you can.
- When you do send replies, keep them as concise as possible. Let your contact know that you’ll be in touch upon your return.
- Avoid additional emails and bottlenecks by always including next steps. Instead of, “Hey, did Sandra send you the documents?” try “BTW, did Sandra send you the XYZ documents for review? If not, please contact her directly.”
- When you return, block off a few hours on your calendar for catching up.
- If you manage others, set time in advance to touch base on any important project updates.
- And, if you’re expecting a lot of email, consider building in a buffer day in your out-of-office message to give you more time for catch up when you return.
It can be so easy to fall into the email trap, but when we reply to work email during vacation, or even on our personal time, we’re telling others that it’s okay to interrupt us. While sometimes a reply may “only take a minute,” with each small response, you’re telling your coworkers that it’s okay to email you. This will lead to more messages, further depriving you of the downtime that you need and deserve.
How do you manage your email while you’re on vacation? Leave a comment below and share which of these tips and tricks is most helpful. Let me know what you’ve found works best for you.
Remember, you dictate to others how you should be treated. Set clear boundaries before your time away to ensure that you get the uninterrupted time you need.