It’s hard to resist the temptation to check your work email while on vacation. After all, who wants to face an in-box full of messages after they return from a break? Surely just checking once a day will not do too much harm, even if you have promised loved ones you will leave work behind for the duration of the trip (which many of us do) If you check your work email on the beach (in the restaurant, at the hotel, during a sightseeing trip etc.) you are far from alone.
According to the American Psychological Association 44% of working American adults check their inboxes at least once a day while on vacation, some of them as much as once an hour. And contrary to what you might think the habit is harmful. according to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute stress levels increase significantly when vacationers access their inboxes, defeating the object of heading away from the office in the first place.
The fact is in order for your vacation this year to have the relaxing, de-stressing effect it should, you need to disconnect from your work email completely. Here are some tips that should help you do that.
Setting a vacation responder is a must. Almost every email client gives users this option, and it is one you should take advantage of from the moment you leave the office to head off on your trip.
‘I’m on vacation, I will respond to your email upon my return’ is the standard phrase most of us use, but the thought of doing that can be stressful in itself, so you should rethink that phrase.
Forward thinking companies like Daimler and The Huffington Post provide their vacationing employees with paid tools that sort and delete incoming emails automatically, encouraging them to set a message that informs contacts they are away, their email is being deleted and they should send the missive again – if necessary – after their return. That may sound a little harsh but surveys at both companies have shown that it works, especially when it comes to reducing stress.
Some of these tools are available to the public – SaneBox is good – but if you are a user of Gmail its settings allow you to create a similar filter all by yourself. You can find step by step instructions for doing that here.
Can’t quite bear the idea of erasing all your messages? Try this instead.
Much of the contents of our inboxes is really not stuff that is very important at all. Updates from your go to news sources and professional publications are useful when you are in the office but you should be leaving them behind while you are away.
To avoid facing too many of them when you return set a priority filter – Gmail has a great one, but other email clients are catching up too- that will sort non-essential communications into a sub in-box. This way when you return from vacation you will only ‘have’ to deal with those work email messages as a priority and you can either delete the filtered emails or peruse them later at your leisure.
By going French we don’t mean you should vacation in France – although it is a lovely place to holiday – but instead encourage your company to adopt a similar attitude as the French have to out of work hour emails.
Recognizing the damage to their mental health – and therefore to their productivity – French employers set company policies that outline when work related email can and cannot be sent, with the most common rules being that other than an hour before, and an hour after an employee has left the office work emails are a no-no.
These rules have proved so successful in reducing employee stress and improving their productivity that for companies with over 50 employees enacting such policies is now mandated by national law. While that is never likely to happen in our ‘always on’ culture just yet by setting an example and ‘going French’ in your own office is certainly something you should consider as this year’s ‘vacation season’ fast approaches.