Checking emails can ruin the holidays even if you have an OOO message, here’s how and when to respond
Out of the office means no access to email.
Employees are using the holidays to reduce screen time, and that means not answering emails and limiting social media use in order to recharge for the new year.
“I personally am not checking my email until after the New Year,” New York-based executive assistant Rachel Dodson, 26, tells Moneyish.
“I put up my out of office stating that I will be returning to work on Jan. 2. If there is an urgent matter, my cell is in my signature so people can call me if they really must reach me,” she says, adding that she instated her own out-of-office policy to fully enjoy a family trip to the Bahamas.
Checking your inbox while on vacation makes it hard to relax and can easily disrupt and ruin your hard-earned time off. That’s why media mogul Arianna Huffington automatically deletes emails her employees get while they’re on PTO. She created Thrive Away, a tool that sends an automated message to emailers while you’re on vacation letting them know you’re out. Then, most importantly, their emails are deleted from inboxes to stay out of sight and mind.
“If the email is important, the sender can always send it again. If it’s not, then it’s not waiting for you when you get back, or, even worse, tempting you to read it while you’re away,” Huffington wrote in an essay for The Harvard Business Review.
“It frees you from the mounting anxiety of having a mounting pile of emails waiting for you on your return — the stress of which mitigates the benefits of disconnecting in the first place.”
It might be a good idea to refrain from social media, too. Just having a cell phone or laptop out can evoke stress. A study from the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research found that the persistent presence of a smartphone can be a distraction even if a person feels they are fully engaged in another activity.
Our hyper-connected surroundings make it nearly impossible to disconnect, and it’s our own fault. According to Hotels.com, the No. 1 most requested amenity surpassing a fully-stocked mini bar, swimming pools and spas is free wifi. And what’s worse is 68% of Americans are checking personal and work emails at least once a day, according to a study by Intel Security. Less than half of Americans abstain from checking work emails while on vacation, even though 65% of those who do say their trip was more pleasant.
Work culture is to blame. Just ask Alexandra Machover, 27, a Brooklyn-based social media producer who had to be on call at all times at her last job.
“I’ve had previous jobs where every email is urgent. I couldn’t leave the office without some ‘urgent’ matter coming up. I’d need to hunt down a computer or bring mine everywhere I go to resolve an issue. I couldn’t even really take vacations or sick days,” says Machover, who recently moved to another company she says instills a proper work-life balance. Now she feels like she can have uninterrupted time off.
“I can take a real vacation, and I’m not feeling bad or guilty for it,” she says, while vacationing in Florida where disconnecting has given her ample time to exercise, swim and relax on the beach.
“I absolutely feel less stressed without the pressure of replying to work emails.”
Career coaches say realistically it may be hard for some of us to ignore everything, especially some cases when work doesn’t feel like work.
“There’s a time and a place for everything. Every time you’re out of the office you can’t not check emails. When you know you need a break, and you know you haven’t had a mental break from work in a long time or any time, it’s okay to take a step back and let things fall through the cracks. It’s a judgement call,” says career coach Maggie Mistal.
Before mentally — and physically — checking out of the office, Mistal advises putting up an automated message that’s short, sweet and to the point. Many people often say they have “limited access to email,” but Mistal says to leave that out.
“If you’re not available, you don’t have to say why. Just say you’re out of the office, period. Say when you’ll be back and someone people can contact in the meantime,” suggests Mistal.
Most importantly, if you decided to detox from emails stick with your decision, don’t selectively reply because people will think that you will always be on even with an out of office response. Of course, many professions require work even on vacation so Mistal says if you’ve already passed on tasks or important emails to others on call, and no one else can do your job, you must be willing to be flexible. She recommends checking emails at the same time everyday, and putting an alarm on your phone to stop you at 30 minutes to set a deadline.
“Ideally, delegate everything and get the mental break, it makes a huge difference, in the same vain, if there are situations or people where you’re the best person to serve them you have to step in. Work expands to fill the time so it’s important to set a deadline for yourself,” says Mistal.
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