August 20th, 2014

Email Etiquette Tips

by Jacqueline Whitmore

Daimler employees can head to the beach this summer without worrying about checking emails, sparing their partners and children the frustration of work-related matters intruding on the family vacation.

The Stuttgart-based car and truck maker said about 100,000 German employees can now choose to have all their incoming emails automatically deleted when they are on holiday so they do not return to a bulging in-box.

The sender is notified by the “Mail on Holiday” assistant that the email has not been received and is invited to contact a nominated substitute instead. Employees can therefore return from their summer vacation to an empty inbox.

“Our employees should relax on holiday and not read work-related emails,” said Wilfried Porth, board member for human resources. “With ‘Mail on Holiday’ they start back after the holidays with a clean desk. There is no traffic jam in their inbox. That is an emotional relief.”

Reading work emails on holiday is a divisive issue. For some, an out-of-office reply is seen as a tool of the work-shy. For others, a regular digital-detox is considered essential to good mental health.

Personally, I’m in favor of the “digital detox” idea and I hope more companies jump on the bandwagon. It’s important for two reasons:

  • It makes for happier employees so there’s less burnout.
  • Employees can go on holiday or take a break without having to worry that they might get reprimanded for not doing their job. This alleviates a tremendous amount of stress.

Here are my top 7 email etiquette tips to observe when when going away on vacation.

  1. Set up an “Out of the Office” auto-reply. If you won’t be accessible during your holiday, make sure your clients and customers can contact someone who can help in your absence.
  2. Limit your email time. Try not to check your email more than 2x a day when you’re on holiday. Otherwise you won’t have a vacation at all.
  3. Don’t check email first thing in the morning. If you do, it sets the tone for your day and may ruin your holiday plans.
  4. Change your voicemail. Your voicemail message should reflect when you will be out of the office. Also leave the name of someone who can help in your absence.
  5. Talk to your supervisor. Before you head out of town, discuss your vacation plans with your supervisor so you are both clear on what is expected and what your plans are.
  6. Just say no. If you’re going somewhere where you might not have Internet access, or going on your honeymoon, for example, it’s fine to say you’re not going to be available. This way, the company can plan on coverage while you’re away.
  7. Don’t feel guilty. If you do decide not to check your email while you’re on holiday, don’t feel guilty. You’re supposed to be on vacation and disconnected, after all. It’s not a vacation if you end up working all day.

I was recently interviewed by Richard Quest of CNN’s Quest Means Business about this topic. Click on this link to watch the video.

Do you check your email while you’re on vacation? Are you in favor of a “No Work, No Email” policy? Please leave your comments below.

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