It's July, and many professionals are anticipating the day they can turn their "Out-of-Office" auto-reply on for their upcoming vacation. However, a large percentage of those professionals won't completely unplug from work. 61% of employees admit to doing some work while on vacation, according to a study by Glassdoor.
In truth, checking email while on vacation does offer a sense of peace that all is well. Whether this inescapable work-induced anxiety is positive or negative is dependent on each employee.
For most, the current reality of work-life balance is a bleed that has been facilitated by technology that cannot be undone. The best thing to do, then, is learn to cope in the best way possible.
Likely, the best way to manage work expectations while on vacation is a hybrid of being online minimally and offline maximally. This is easier said than done, so here are the top five tips to help you recharge without suffering from "absence anxiety."
- Create a Strategic "Out-of-Office" Reply
A good out-of-office message should state more than that you're away. Items to include are:
- The date of your return so people can know when to expect a reply, or when to follow-up.
- Someone to contact in your absence. Give their name and phone number in the case of urgent matters.
- Clear boundaries. If you'll be checking email a few times a day, say so. If you'll be totally offline, make that clear. If you're worried about missing important emails, tell people to re-send emails when you're back in the office.
No matter how good your out-of-office reply, it's useless if you don't stick to it. The minute you respond to a coworker, it's a slippery slope to responding to all of your emails.
- Dedicate a time block to e-mail, and stick to it
Pick an amount of time between 30 and 60 minutes every day to attend to emails, and stick to it. You won't be able to answer them all, so don't try. You may choose to use this time to reply, delegate, or to simply categorize emails to the correct folder for dealing with them upon your return.
- Use an app
You don't have to go this alone. Google Inbox does a good job of identifying important emails and automatically presents those front and center. To get the most out of Google Inbox you'll want to start using it a few weeks before your trip so it can learn what's important and what can wait.
To deal with the underlying problem of too many e-mails, introduce a task-management app to your team, such as Weekdone. This will allow your team to post updates on projects, assign tasks, and make requests all in one place, thereby eliminating the need for dozens of emails. There's even a specific place for you and your team to enter problems that would otherwise come directly to your inbox. Check Weekdone once a day to get a quick overview of what's going on, giving you peace of mind.
- Create an "urgent signal"
Create a signal for your team to use if they have an urgent matter that absolutely requires your attention. For example, a text message with a single word from someone on your team can indicates that you need to check your e-mail. This method keeps you from compulsively checking your e-mail, and gives comfort to both you and your team.
Choose a person within your company whom you trust and is very familiar with your work, and delegate your emails to him or her. This can easily be set up through Gmail so anyone can respond to emails on your behalf. You can review messages sent upon your return and follow up when necessary. Consider a small gift for the poor soul that receives the delegation responsibility, however.
Ultimately, it's up to you to find the best way to recharge your batteries, but it is critical that you do. Set clear boundaries, stick to them, and soak up precious time with loved ones or in solitude. And remember, the best way to receive fewer emails is to send fewer emails. Putting your plans, progress, and problems all in one place is a great place to start.
Try Weekdone for free and give yourself the chance to relax on vacation knowing you're just a little bit closer to Inbox Zero.