Tips for staying in touch with work while you're away from work.
Email communication is the most wonderful thing ever invented.
Email communication is the most horrible thing ever invented.
Both are true and never more so than when you are trying to take a vacation. Sure, everyone knows that ideally we should not have to read and answer work emails during our well-deserved time off. It defeats the purpose, doesn’t it, and can even create an unhealthy work dynamic — after all, the successful operation of any enterprise should not depend on any one person.
If you are in the majority, however, you probably do check work emails while vacationing, at least to some extent. Partly, it’s self-preservation (no one wants to return to an overflowing inbox). Partly, it’s now the new normal in many workplaces.
Let’s say you do check in occasionally. Is there a way to handle it in the least intrusive fashion? The good news is yes, there is.
First, of course, schedule your vacation at a convenient time and do all you can to prepare management, colleagues, and clients to function in your absence.
While away, limit your email time to a half hour or, at most, an hour. Challenge yourself to quickly sort through messages, deleting what can be deleted and organizing the rest in order of priority.
Only respond to the emails that are truly urgent. What’s more, strive to do so in a manner that discourages continued dialogue. Give a detailed and unambiguous response, for example, or just transfer the entire issue to a colleague. Then turn off your phone/computer. Do not get sucked into the vortex.
You may also want to pre-arrange a “code red” signal — a text, perhaps, that someone will send you to alert you that terrible things are happening and you need to log on to your account.
Don’t forget to establish in advance whether you will be on call, checking emails just once a day, or not checking emails at all, and then stick to it. Nothing is more confusing than telling people you’ll be completely unavailable and then popping up with comments, critiques and contributions anyway.
Finally, in the weeks leading up to your absence, endeavor to send fewer emails. Because here’s a little secret: The more email we send, the more we receive.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.