For many dealing with the holiday email back-log is one of the most stressful aspects of taking a break. More stressful some say than, losing your luggage, having to look after aging parents or fractious children. It compels them to stay connected even although it might adversely impact their holiday (as Lucy Kellaway recently found).
Last week Daimler introduced an email programme which automatically deletes employees emails when they are on leave. It sends a message to the sender asking them to re-send the email if it is important after the recipient is back.
The Daimler system is sophisticated and most companies are not in a position to implement such a system but take heart there are other options. The key thing to remember is that technology alone will never cure email overload whatever some software providers say.
The real cure for email overload lies in changing our email behaviour. It is about re-thinking how we use email and curing what has become the hidden disease of 21st century working life – email and data addiction.
In the short term or those either going on holiday or just returning to work, there are some simple things you can do.
1) Before you go – housekeeping
Before you go away do some basic email housekeeping to clean up your inbox. For example, clear out all the old emails and set some filters to remove all the new but unnecessary emails (eg newsletters). Most email software allows you to set two different Out of Office messages. So for your internal emails, set a message similar to the Daimler system one. Indeed this is what many executives already do.
For more tips on how to clean up your inbox before going on leave see earlier posts.
2) On your return – talk and talk again
On your return, talk, talk and talk again before you even touch your inbox. This gives you an overview of anything that really needs your attention. Then and only then tackle the inbox. Triage it and deal only with the really vital emails.
For more tips see our seven step plan to reduce the holiday email overload.
3) Declare email bankruptcy
As for the rest, declare email bankruptcy. Delete the lot. If anything is that important you can be sure the sender will re-contact you.
The result – freedom from email holiday overload and the need to stay connected. Of course in the longer term you need to implement an email management change programme to better educate your colleagues about how to reduce email overload generally. For help changing the email culture do call us to hear how Mesmo Consultancy’s Brilliant Email Management masterclasses have helped other organisations like yours.
Meanwhile, what is your top tip for reducing the holiday email overload backlog? Is the Daimler approach better than staying connected?