In this extract from The Executive Secretary Guide to Taking Control of your Inbox Monica Seeley looks at the pros and cons of staying connected whilst on holiday
As the vacation season approaches, many of you will be faced with the dilemma of whether or not to log-on when on leave. Let’s look at the pros and cons and some ways to pack (and unpack) your inbox properly so that you don’t drown in an email tsunami.
Staying connected – why
The main reasons people say they stay connected are:
- ‘The tsunami of emails to which one returns.’
- ‘My boss/the organisation expects me to be available.’
- ‘We are closing a very important project/deal.’
But are these the only reasons? Is there a deeper more worrying one – that of email addiction, the hidden disease of the 21st Century life? (If you want to assess your level of addiction go to www.mesmo.co.uk/assess-yourself/email-addiction-self-audit/).
Disconnecting – why
None of us is indispensable. In this age of supposed 24x7x365 there is a temptation to think the organisation will grind to a halt if we don’t make ourselves constantly available. However, we all need to re-charge our batteries from time to time. An intense working life is not always good for personal relationships and indeed our well-being. A recent National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) found that as laptops and mobile devices make their way into the bedroom their owners are enjoying less sex than a decade ago. Moreover, the number of days off due to stress and mental health related conditions has risen over the past three years and now costs UK business about £70 billion each year in lost productivity.
Therefore, and not surprisingly, an increasing number of organisations are taking the impact of email overload on well-being and the work-life balance very seriously and finding ways to help staff at all levels switch off and have a proper break. Many are now implementing an Email Free Vacation Oath which is a commitment to disconnect and stay disconnected from work emails while on holiday.
Pack your inbox ready for a vacation
How can you pack your inbox so that you do not return to an email forest in which it’s hard to see the trees from the woods? Here are the four key steps to preparing your inbox for a break.
- Clean out your inbox before you go taking care to mark (in some way) those which need your attention on your return.
- Prioritise what emails you will want to see on your return.
- Write rule(s) to move automatically the less important emails to folders.
- Out of office message – write a safe and simple message and set if for a day either side of your break to give you time to clear out the backlog and catch up on your return.
You might be lucky enough to have a colleague who will keep an eye on your inbox. Be sure to brief them properly on what to look out for, how the boss likes their email handled – and think about how confidential (and private) emails will be handled.
Unpacking the inbox on your return
Below is a five-point process which will help you sort the inbox very quickly on your return.
No approach to sorting a large backlog of emails is 100% fool proof. However, adopting this five-point process will help you save time and spot 95% of the important emails.
What if you either did not have time to pack the inbox properly or still come back to 1,000+ emails? Many have been known to declare email bankruptcy and just delete the whole lot. If it was that important you can be sure the sender will re-send the email.
And if you do take a peek?
If you do decide to dip in whilst on leave, be sure you are very clear about why you are doing so and that you are not covering up a deeper issue such as email addiction, fear of losing your job, wanting to look macho. Try to confine checking to once/twice a day and preferably at the end of the day.