Checking Email On Vacation

Do you check email on vacation? If you do, you’re not alone. Surveys report that more than half of employees check email while they are on vacation.

The bigger question is whether you should take the time to check your email while you’re on vacation or otherwise not working. If you do, a vacation can turn into a “workcation” when you get bogged down in email messages that need a response.

Should You Check Email While On Vacation

There are two schools of thoughts on the topic of working when you’re not supposed to be. The first says it’s important for a vacation to be exactly that. No work, no work-related communications, email, phone or otherwise.

The second says that if you check email occasionally you’ll be able to stay on top of what’s happening at work, can deal with any situations that can’t wait, and won’t have an overflowing In Box when you get back to work.

Employer Expectations

Another issue is employer expectations. Many employers expect employees to stay connected and to check-in at least every once in a while – even when they’re off the clock. In fact, I spoke to someone recently who was told by her boss that she should have checked email while she was away and next time it would be a good idea to bring her laptop with her or check-in via her phone.

For me, it’s much easier to stay connected than to have to deal with hundreds of email messages after I get back. For others, it’s easier to ignore them and deal with them in a batch after they get back.

Regardless of what you decide about staying connected while you are away, it is important that both you and your supervisor are clear on what work-related activities you are doing, if any. It’s also important to follow through on what you decide. Don’t say you will be checking in if you aren’t sure you’ll have Internet access or you really need to be disconnected to enjoy your vacation. It’s worse to have your boss think you’ll be checking and you don’t, than not to check-in at all.

Consider your role at the company, your responsibilities, the pros and cons of staying in touch with your office, and what impact your decision may have on how the company regards you. If it’s common practice for employees to stay in touch, you may not want to be the only one who opts out.

If you do decide to stay connected, here are some tips on the best way to check email while on vacation.

Vacation Email Tips

Talk to Your Supervisor. Before you head out of the office and out of town, discuss your vacation plans with your supervisor so you are both clear on what is expected and what your plans are.

Just Say No. If you’re going somewhere where Internet access is iffy, if you’re traveling internationally, or going on your honeymoon, for example, or another vacation where it’s important to take a real break from work, it’s fine to say you’re not going to be available. This way, the company can plan on coverage while you’re away.

Plan Email Checks. When you do decide to check your email, don’t check it all day on your phone. Plan on spending a little time each day – either early morning or in the evening – to get caught up. Check your email once a day and ignore it the rest of the time or you will end up not having a vacation at all.

Set Up an Out of the Office Vacation Auto-Reply. Consider setting up an out of office auto reply message. That way the people who email you will know you’re away and won’t expect an immediate reply.

Skim Your Messages. Skim your email messages, delete the junk, reply to only those that need an immediate response and save the rest for when you get back.

Don’t Feel Guilty. If you do decide you are actually going to be on vacation and you are not going to check with the office, don’t feel guilty. You are supposed to be on vacation and disconnected, after all. It’s not a vacation if you end up working all day.

What’s most important is balance and what is best for you. As I mentioned, it’s less stressful for me to stay in touch and not to have to deal with a ton of work to get caught up when I get back. For others, it’s more important to have real down time from work and to not to have to think about it.

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