How to deal with work emails on holidays

Ignore or reply?

26th May 2022

You’re counting the days down to sand, sun and sangria. Getting ready to put the Out of Office message on.  But have you thought about what you should do about those pesky emails that will undoubtedly be piling up in your inbox while you are sipping something smooth and cool?

Smartphones and apps make it impossible to ever be free and shut off completely

Of course, you could decide to ignore them entirely, hoping your out of office divert message will redirect the email to someone else.

You could go into half-holiday mode, keeping an eye out for anything important while deleting all the obvious spam.

Or you could just completely ignore all emails received while you are on holiday and then mass delete them in one flash go. This is only for the brave and not for the fainthearted!

Smartphones and apps make it impossible to ever be free and shut off completely unless you are holidaying on the volcanic island of Tristan Da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean (yeah I googled the most remote places in the world!).

So how do you guarantee yourself a stress free holiday (if leaving the kids at home is not an option!).

You’ve 2 choices…either accept to work when you shouldn’t or deal with the deluge of emails upon your return. No matter how much work you do coming up to your holidays to cover off everything there’s always something that creeps up.

Some simple tips:

1.   Prep before you go – clear as much as you can or if you are lucky to have a team member that you can hand over to while you are away happy days…literally!

2.   Simply don’t reply! You can keep an eye on your emails but don’t reply and engage with people, otherwise they’ll presume you are working while you are on leave and will continue to email you…before you know it the email thread is longer than the queue for Space Mountain!

3.   Set boundaries – and be strong! State when you will and will not be available. You definitely won’t be available during happy hour!

4.   Understand your company’s culture – if your company’s culture is to go on holidays and forget about the place then do exactly that. If the culture requires you to be on call 24/7 while on leave then don’t go back after your holidays…you are in the wrong job!

5.   Somethings can wait – not everything is a top priority. Remember, somethings can wait until you get back to the office.

6.   Just say no! Don’t be taken advantage of. Sometimes we simply have to say no, I won’t be available.

7.   Let your colleagues know you won’t be responsive – if you need to make it clear that you are only available in case of an emergency, then do.

8.   Set the same time every day – if you do decide to check your emails on holidays, do it at the same time every day and allocate a specific amount of time for it. Choose the morning or evening as a catch up on the day.

But how do you manage a brimming inbox upon return?

1.      Start with the most recent emails first

2.      Categorise your emails in terms of importance

3.      If you have been lucky even to hand your work over to a colleague while you are away, grab a coffee with them to catch up.

Now, finish that packing, check you have your passport for the umpteenth time and get ready to clap when the plane lands!

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