Stop Checking Email on Vacation


Now that we are at the end of August, most of us have either taken our summer vacation or will be heading off for vacation soon. How many of us check our email when we’re on vacation? We worry we’ll miss something important. We dread having thousands of emails in our inbox to deal with once we are back in the office. We fear that the person acting for us won’t do a good job while we’re gone and feel compelled to check in just in case.

Studies show that taking time off from work, and work-related email, lowers levels of fatigue and job burnout. Employees who come back rested from vacation tend to perform better at solving problems and other creative tasks. Given this reality, how do we overcome our worries and fears and implement a no or minimal email vacation? Here are some tips:

  • Set expectations: Tell your boss, colleagues, and employees that you will not check emails while on vacation. Give them a phone number to call if there is a dire emergency.
  • Use your out-of-office: If your out-of-office message communicates that all emails received will be deleted and requests that people either email your back up or email you again after a set date, you can then delete emails without reading them when you return to the office. This can prevent the thousands of emails dilemma when you return. This comes with risks, however, since people may forget when you return or you may inadvertently delete a really important email. But, the benefits may outweigh the risks.
  • Use Outlook rules: Set some rules that automatically sort emails while you are out. That way when you return, you can focus on key emails that are high priority and let the rest sit until you have the time to review them.
  • Don’t mix work and personal emails: Many of us like the ease of having only one mobile device to carry but the drawback is that we cannot help but see those work emails when we check our personal messages. Instead, have a separate work device that you keep turned off except for those times you set aside to check work emails.
  • Identify one time per day to read (not respond to) email: If you have to read your emails while on leave, decide how many minutes (no more than one hour) per day at one set time that you will review email. Stick to the limits and do not respond to emails. If you respond, you are not modeling good resilience behavior and risk being pulled into the work being done.
  • Train and trust your back-up: Make sure your back-up is well trained to do your work while you are out and then trust your back-up. If you’re a manager, this is great professional development for the acting boss. Let them act and don’t second guess their decisions.

What do you do to stop checking your email while on vacation?

This blog does not represent official policies of the Department of State or those of the U.S. Government.

Beth Payne is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply