August 7, 2017
Holidays and email – what’s going on?
I have been trying to find out how many people have a holiday in which they remain out of contact with their office. In which, in short, they resist checking their email.
Back in 2015 The Daily Mail reported that one in three of us check our work email every day when we are on holiday. As that article highlights, this may be entirely voluntary. As in: some of us get so bored on holiday that work emails represent a welcome break.
What’s interesting is that Google did not throw up any articles or studies on this subject fresher than that 2015 article. I suspect this means that the subject is no longer news-worthy. In other words, it has now become entirely normal to read emails from work, when on holiday.
I am about to go away myself, so I will try watching myself to see what the triggers are. Will a moment of boredom send me rushing back to the Black Rain pouring into my In Box? Will fear of the huge volume of un-read mails lead me to read a few now, if only to get ahead on the deleting task (which can be pretty huge)? Or will I have a good reason to check in? Whatever that may be.
I’d be interested in your thoughts on this, people. Confess below – thanks !
A reminder (in my in box, inevitable for a teacher, during a holiday) that time was… that I went for weeks without checking in, or even peeping. And others, at work and play, kind of knew and expected that. Not any more. The Black Rain pours in and I get wet. Mostly it’s easily dealt with (I don’t even bother with an ‘out of office’ which everyone knows is a hoax) and sometimes it’s nice to hear from people. And I simply don’t reply, if I don’t want to, although that might not be helpful. I know I am a bit of an oddity with this subject but if I now read emails all year round – even during the 9 week summer ‘break’, then I suppose it’s pretty likely that Canute couldn’t wave away (or ignore)the Black Rain. Of course, like the rest of us, I do see who it’s from before opening…
I think this is man confessing to reading emails all year round but trying not to let on to the sender (in most cases!) that this is indeed the case ! But I could be wrong. Thanks Russell ! M 🙂
I never read my emails on holiday – you’re supposed to be taking time away from work! At the end of the day, no one thanks you for working during your time off, and you just set an expectation that people can reach you whilst you are supposed to be offline…
Intersting area this – especially with work social, social social and all that other stuff out there too. I have a feeling that people are becoming better at dealing with switching off their devices when away. It used to be some weird badge of honour to check mails, listen to voicemails and all of that. I think like most technological advances they find their level. Obviously some organisation have the problem that their people are competing or feeling pressure to be visible at all times, but I find that many are starting to grow up and realise that fried employees and colleagues aren’t in a good place. I intend to try and switch off this weekend for two weeks to see if it’s possible even as a business owner !
Good luck with that Mike. Will see how I do. Not sure I could manage that long !
For some people, isn’t it an inability to resist the urge of their natural curiosity?
Technology has meant more accessibility to work when on holiday and it has created new types of jobs which favour flexibility – digital nomads, freelancers and the gig economy. Friends who work in these areas, and don’t share the same traditional 9-5 structure, I have found are a lot more likely to check their emails.
However, I believe there is a bit of a counter-culture developing elsewhere, as 21st century workers we are so inundated in technology, that a holiday can be a physical change that can be a literal line in the sand.
I don’t know what all this angst is about! I’m an unrepentant reader of work emails on my holidays. I guess I must be Gordon Gekko’s love child but I think that complete holidays are for wimps. Markets, and clients, and partners, and stakeholders won’t go away and will still need to be serviced when you’re back so why not spend 30 minutes a day dealing with real life and save yourself a ton of grief when you “return to work”?
If you can afford (financially) to ignore your email inbox for a week or two, go ahead and do so. Somehow I doubt many freelancers do not check their email, just in case…..
I’ve just been away and a large shoot came in and needed an email reply mid holiday. Was the article written probably from the perspective of employees in large firms?
I am with you David. I would love to ignore my emails for a couple of weeks. But who knows what opportunities are lurking amidst the Black Rain… Catch up soon. Mark.
I work for a small travel business, full time (8-4.30, ha…) and check my work emails periodically whenever I’m not in the office. Stuff happens. They’re taken care of by somebody else when I’m on holiday, but I still skim to make sure something that would take me 30 seconds doesn’t end up taking a colleague an hour. Or to jump in when a crisis comes up. Knowing it’s all looked after and nothing is going to spring on me is much more relaxing than pretending it’s not happening. I recognise that’s not a line from the manual of “work-life balance” but I’ve never really believed in that anyway in the sense of switching on and off.
What’s fascinating to me is how safari camps are dealing with clients who want 24/7 connectivity. Some embrace that, others ration or manage it (the “wifi tent”) and others are proud to say they only have a connection in the manager’s office and all their guests are delighted that they can’t access the internet – and their children can’t play on their iPads. To me that’s the equivalent of saying safaris shouldn’t involve vehicles or electricity just because they would have used ox carts and candles 100 years ago. It’s often **fun** to be online when you’re on holiday and you don’t have to be.
I try and switch off for holidays as I trust the people working for me to do the right thing. They have a way of getting in touch if they need to, but I also find that upon return, that people have grown a little by having to get on and make decisions and work things out for themselves. And normally – no one needed help and nothing burnt down, so maybe we all just need to relax a little more.
As someone no longer in paid employment, I guess I am in a different position. Most of the e-mails I receive these days are connected with social domestic or pleasure (as the insurance world would have it), and so I am happy to keep up to speed when away from home.
However, for those still in gainful employ, I guess it is a judgement call. The plus side is that you can keep in touch, steer, guide, or otherwise react to keep things running along nicely. The downside is that your attention may never be 100% on the relaxing break you are supposed to be enjoying, it may be irritating to your friends/partner, and at worst, might completely ruin your holiday by exposing you to an issue which (almost always) could have awaited your return.
A subject very close to my heart. I feel that the urge, or not, to read mails when on holiday depends upon how secure you feel in your business or role. I spent 25 years running my own businesses and then reading and responding to a few mails on holiday did not feel like a chore, until post 2008,when business was not so great and every penny counted. In fact, holidays then… not a chance! I then got seduced into working for a client in a Global Head of role. Whilst I could take all my holiday if I dared (never once took more than 2 weeks out of the 6 in my contract) the pervasive atmosphere In a business that had missed it targets by over a billion USD was not conducive to switching the smartphone off for those 2 weeks. Whilst they talked a good game about employee work life balance the reality was anything but. Exec level managers would think nothing of calling senior staff whilst on the beach. Hence obsessive mail checking and bad temper. Not good for family holiday success.
Now back to running my own business again I a/ get about 10% of the couple of hundred idiot, arse covering, mails I got every day working for a large corporate and b/ those I do get are generally meaningful and of interest and c/ I feel no pressure to check them every day, I just want to, as work is genuinely fun again.
I am so very happy not to feel the need any longer to be ‘always on’; a pernicious effect of modern life. Just look at the epidemic of mental health problems in our children’s generation which study after study attributes at least in part to social FOMO.
Moral of this story/rant is that if you have been more or less content to run your own show, even with the inevitable ups and downs, think very, very carefully if a client offers you a nice big pay packet. If you have not been raised in corporate land and alteady accept that however good you are it will not affect your outcomes, the price you pay them may be larger than you think!
Let’s see whether MW3Heads responds from the beach. It may give us a clue as to his order book! Have a great hols Mark!
Even though I work for myself, I do switch off and unplug during my holidays. As a single mum of a 13yr old son, I juggle school holidays and having fun with him, with work cos we need to eat! So in those times, I am uptodate with emails and all the other places people can chat to me about work and stuff. I schedule less client work during those times. However, whilst away I do totally switch off – no emails, no texts, no social media – nothing. Just had a week away. Off again tomorrow for another week. It has done me the power of good to rest my brain and have fun. It’s not in my interest to burn out and make myself ill. Self care is highly important and I see being unplugged whilst on holiday as self care. And if I miss out on something? Well that leaves an opening for something else. No FOMO here 🙂
Some really interesting replies here. I think I fall into the David Copeman School – alas, or maybe for the good. Currently on a road trip in the USA, but checking mails once a day, partly to clear out the sheer volume of Black Rain that never stops.
Thanks everyone for all your very different views.
What is most interesting is that there is no consensus at all !!
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