With the holidays approaching, I’m getting ready to take a vacation—not just from work, but from email too.
Completely disconnecting from email on vacation is a commitment I first made over a year ago, and initially, it was a challenge. It was difficult to give myself permission to step away from work. But it gets a little easier each year, and now, I look forward to the time away from my computer.
Preparing to disconnect got me thinking about how others handle email over the holidays. I’m sure many of your employees will be taking some vacation time. Do they know how you expect them to handle email while they’re out of the office?
If you expect your employees to take a true, disconnected vacation, do they know that? You may think they do, but unless you’ve taken a moment in time where you share your expectations in a formal way, there’s a chance they don’t.
One thing that’s important to remember when setting expectations around email is that everyone needs time off. It’s how we reconnect with what matters and re-energize ourselves. If your employees think they need to be constantly connected and need to immediately answer every email that comes their way, their vacations will turn into “workcations,” and they won’t get that much-needed time to recharge.
Let employees know that it’s not only OK for them to step away from their emails and understand not everything needs to be answered urgently, but that you prefer if they do. Clearly setting this expectation up front can help employees unplug without guilt. It also lets them put a plan in place before they take their vacations: they can tell people they won’t be available, give them alternative contacts, and make sure appropriate people know how to reach them beyond email should something urgent come up.
Something else to remember: one of the best ways to tell people what you expect from them is to show them what those expected behaviors look like. Role model the importance of taking a real vacation for your team. If you unplug from email on vacation, you’ll not only set an example, but you’ll also get that benefit of having some uninterrupted time to recharge too. (Going cold turkey may not work for you, and that’s OK. Checking once a day works for some people when they’re away, but make sure the reason you’re checking isn’t your ego.)
How will you articulate your email-checking expectations to your employees before they leave for vacation?
- David Grossman
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