A post on the BBC new magazine asks the question: “Should holiday email be deleted?” First, let me say to American readers that in this case “holiday” means “vacation.” What they mean to ask is: “Should I have incoming E-mail deleted while on vacation?”
My answer, yes, but with a caveat. If you don’t stress over what you miss when you go on holiday/vacation then absolutely. You can tell if you stress or not by how you return. If you come into the office and say, without meaning it, “so, what’d I miss?” then by all means, delete e-mail during vacation. If, however, you spend not just hours, but days, talking with colleagues, on top of going through your inbox to reconstruct your missed work like a forensic scientist at a mass murder, then don’t delete your e-mail. You will always wonder what you missed and that will add to your stress. If you fall somewhere in-between, then use your best judgement.
How To Message Your Decision
Write a simple e-mail informing people that you aren’t in the office, you aren’t checking e-mail and you will be deleting anything that comes in while you are out. Also include what they should do if they really need someone in your role while you are out. Something like this.
Hello. I am out of the office on vacation from DATE1 to DATE2. I will not be checking e-mail while I am out and all e-mail received while I’m out of the office will be deleted. For anything urgent, please contact Bob at E-MAIL ADDRESS or Sally at E-MAIL ADDRESS.
Not deleting e-mail isn’t going to fix a management issue of role coverage, so don’t let that enter the equation. You can add that back to your worry stack when you return refreshed and reinvigorated.
The World Doesn’t Stop Because You Took a Break
In reality, meaningful issues that require your attention will find when they need to find you. The business didn’t stop because you went to Disneyworld. Don’t stress everyone else out by having them recap everything in every meeting. Business actually runs a bit slower than we think, and small items resolve themselves and don’t need to be revisited. If you need to know something that has forward impact, then ask about that specifically, that will keep meetings running smoother and nerves running cooler.
As a side note, these days, many people cheat on their vacations by checking e-mail when their wife/husband/son/daughter/dog isn’t looking (well, do be honest, the dog is often looking because taking him for a walk is the excuse to look at your e-mail). That’s not fair to you or the family. Re-read the previous paragraph please, and just let go and enjoy.
Daniel W. Rasmus
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.