I had quite an early holiday this summer, taking a week out at the end of June. I set my Out of Office and flew to Greece to have a total break from work. But I’m rubbish at leaving it all behind, and took some sneaky peeks at my emails on my phone whilst soaking up the sun by the pool. I did that until I had a firm email from Kate telling me firmly to turn the phone OFF. She asked me to stop responding to emails, assured me that everything was in control, that my projects were in the capable hands of my colleagues and the purpose of time off was to chill and forget work. She was absolutely right, and I was totally wrong. It was time to go cold-turkey and I duly switched off, sipped at a mojito and left work behind. (With a sense of dread of the number of emails I’d have to trawl through on my return). My concern was real and shared by millions of others who have that despair of returning to work following a holiday period to find hundreds of unread emails in the in box. My Out of Office clearly stated that I was away and without looking smug that I was off, or disinterested in my clients while I was gone, my message was to the point. (Storytelling in an Out of Office message is for another blog) But still there were hundreds of emails when I got back, some with crises that had long since been resolved by my colleagues during my absence.
And then I read about one solution which has been adopted by Daimler the German car maker, who have an interesting and laudable approach to their Out of Office. Following testing last year, they have introduced the ‘Mail on Holiday’ solution which enables their employees to choose to have all incoming emails auto-deleted during their holiday period. The sender is notified that the email hasn’t been received and is provided with an alternative contact to direct their communication. The employee then returns from holiday without the chore of a mailbox clean-up.
I love this concept; the vision that I could return to work without spending several hours working from one end of the long batch of email upwards to gather what’s been going on in my absence and deleting the majority because someone has been totally capable of dealing with the situation during my holiday.
I doubt there are many companies who would adopt this brave approach to communication, but it’s interesting that it is tackling the issue of work-life balance and sending out a clear message that holiday is a time for a total digital detox.
Just to let you know, I’ll be away throughout the last week of August!