Reasons to Avoid Checking Emails During the Holidays

December 23, 201611:00 am1122 views

As we sign off for Christmas, John Williams asks, “Has the world made it impossible for us to unplug while we’re on a holiday?”

If you consider innovations like voice search, digital assistants, productivity apps, in-flight Wi-Fi and the fact that around 205 billion emails are sent per day around the world, it certainly seems so.

2016 mobile email survey revealed that 43% of Americans check their email while on a vacation, with 3% regularly getting up in the middle of the night to check messages. In the UK, 4 in 10 employees have so much work when they return from holiday that they wish they’d never left in the first place.

Technology has facilitated a work-life bleed so powerful that even when we’re sitting on a beach sipping cocktails, the urge to ‘quickly’ check our inboxes is irresistible, often guilt-induced, and more common than it used to be.

Five Reasons to Avoid Checking Emails on Holiday

  1. Reduced Productivity

Quality over quantity. Constantly feeling like you need to be productive can have a negative impact. By taking a step back from work and taking the time to refresh, you’ll gain a different perspective and find that winding down is more beneficial than constantly being in a work mind set. This is a great way to avoid burnout.

  1. Increased stress

report on the pros and cons of using email by the Future Work Centre showed that a constant stream of updates is toxic, and can lead to high levels of stress as well as interference between work and home.

  1. Resentment

There’s a difference between work being a passion or a burden. Having it constantly intrude on your down time will eventually lead to resentment, maybe not at first but possibly in the long term.

  1. Clients understand

Bosses, employees, clients – we’re all human and we all need time for ourselves. Communicate with clients and let them know you’ll be away, and you’ll be surprised at their understanding, especially if you’ve planned and have delegated important tasks.

  1. Work life balance is vital

Taking the time to enjoy your life is not something you should take for granted. When you’re on a holiday, spend time with loved ones or having new experiences, you owe it to yourself to be present and ‘live in the now’.

See: Onboarding Dont’s for HR Pros to Not Go Overboard

What if You Can’t Unplug from Work?

There are, of course, some who have little choice but to be online. But considering research published by the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology showed elevated levels of cortisol in people who expected to be available when away from work.

Moderation is the key, and setting yourself a strict limit on how much time you spend online can help you avoid falling into a time-consuming trap on a holiday. Here’s how:

  1. Commit

Whether you commit to checking email once a day or not checking at all, stay consistent. It’s very confusing to receive an automated ‘out of office reply’ as well as an email from the same person a short while later. Decide how you’re going to handle your inbox, communicate it and then stick to it.

  1. Schedule

Set aside 30 minutes at the same time each day to check your emails, and give them your full attention. Go through your inbox and categorise each mail in order of importance so you know which ones to focus on when you get back from holiday. Alternatively, answer priority mails and categorise the rest.

  1. Communicate

Don’t respond to mails with questions, but rather with instructions. This can minimise back and forth. Instead of asking, “Has Melissa received the quote?,” say, “Has Melissa received the quote? If not please send it to her by 5pm today. If she has, please call her to discuss it by Friday.” This allows team members to progress tasks rather than wait on instructions.

Plan Ways to Plug Out

  • Set your out of office reply and include the details of a backup contact
    • Leave emergency contact details for your own peace of mind
    • Delegate major projects
    • Leave your work devices at home
    • Log out of your work email or task management systems
    • Mute your work chat groups
    • Set filters on your email to only allow mail from specific addresses
    • Switch off work-related social media
    • Schedule any available times in advance

And last, but certainly not the least, have a happy holiday!


Author credit: John Williams, Head of Marketing, Instant Office


Also read: Keeping the Right People: Employee Retention Strategies

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