It’s often the last thing on your mind and the final thing you do (if you do it at all). The holiday time can be a frenetic build up to the last day in the office and suddenly it’s handover time. It’s really easy to either leave this important piece completely and ‘hope for the best’ or to do it in 30 seconds and think it’ll be good enough.
The ‘important piece’ I’m referring to is this. How you decide (or if you decide) to manage your emails and inbox whilst you’re on holiday. You’ll notice I said ‘how you decide’ because it is a decision you make and it’s one that affects the quality of your holiday and the ease of your ‘re-entry’ after your holiday.
If you’re traveling on business it’s different. Keeping in touch via your phone/remote email is easy enough now and a gap in timezones is usually manageable. There are still some steps you can take to make that easier and these are steps which buy you a huge amount of credit from those who are emailing you.
If I ask you “What happens when you’re on your holiday, spending time with friends and family and your emails just keep coming?” You’re most likely to tell me one of these three responses: – They just go into my inbox and just pile up until I return – I keep opening them and responding to them whilst I’m away – I go away and leave an email bounce-back for people
Well, as a savvy and influential communicator, managing your profile, your clients, your energy whilst you’re ‘Out of the Office’ plays a big part in how effective the holiday time is for you and how connected – or disconnected – you feel towards your holiday companions whilst you’re away.
Let’s think about the effects of making any one of these three decisions:
“They just go into my inbox and just pile up until I return” It’s great to leave the office and go and refresh and reboot yourself. The thing about just leaving your inbox and walking away is the effect it has on you whilst you’re away as you anticipate the return to “Inbox Full” or lots of repeat messages from people wondering if you got their original message. You can use a lot of energy even though you’re lying on a sun-bed or swimming in the sea as you wonder about things from a distance.
“Just walk away” has great merits and it also has a price. Your clients, customers and colleagues wonder about your commitment to them and, if they experience you being away while leaving them ‘hanging’ until your return, it says a lot about how you are as a person to do business with.
The essence of the thinking here is that other people follow your fortunes and are relying on you for information, action or input. Keeping them informed and updated buys you crucial credit from those people who may have to wait for something because you’re away.
A simple, clear bounce-back solves this and tells the person you’ve thought about them and catered for them whilst you’re away. The trick is what that bounce-back says…..
“I keep opening them and responding to them whilst I’m away” Whether you’re a business owner yourself or whether you work within a business, this is so easy to do and has as many benefits as it does drawbacks.
Obvious Benefits: you keep your email box under control; you keep in touch; you tell people what they need and want from you; you stay in the loop; you return from holiday and you’re up-to-date, you can ‘hit the ground running’.
Obvious Drawbacks: your mind and energy kept focusing on work-related ‘stuff’; your attention was divided a lot of the time between relaxing and responding to your emails; people around you got less of your down-time self; a lot of the time you could have been in the office as you notice less of your holiday surroundings; if anything, you got irritated with your surroundings as they distracted you.
This is a tricky one to balance. Keeping in touch and then switching off. When you keep focusing on work and what’s going on with it, you drastically reduce the amount of energy you rebuild whilst you’re on holiday. We all know that changes of pace, of scenery and of thinking are the measure by which most of us gauge our holiday. Why do you think it is so many people save up their reading up from holiday to holiday? They crave that time and space to throw themselves into their books, hobbies, sandcastle-building…whatever it is.
If you do decide to keep opening and responding to your emails whilst you’re away, put some structure in. Use that bounce-back and agree with yourself, your colleagues, your family how and when you’ll read your messages. The structure you put in will give you the freedom to enjoy the time out. Without it you can end up being ‘business as usual’.
“I go away and leave an email bounce-back for people?” My response to clients here is always ‘great’ and then my next question is ‘tell me what your bounce-back says and what’s the point of it?’ I’ve seen some ‘corkers’ in my time – both received them from people and also been shown them by clients: – “I’m out of the office for 2 weeks” – no idea when you went, when you’re coming back, what I should do whilst you’re away… – “I’m on holiday, please call Ann Smith if it’s urgent” – no idea for how long, no idea who Ann Smith is and no email or phone number for Ann Smith (whoever she is)… – “I’m away from the office until 1st July 2011, I’ll be in touch again then” – at least we know how long you’re away but what do we do in the meantime?
You can get here that if you’re using the bounce-back, make it helpful, think about who will receive it and what you want them to think about you when they do!
As far as what I would recommend – that’s your decision. Only you know what your holiday is for and about, what’s going on in your business and what the point is of reading your emails whilst you’re away. A combination of 1, 2 and 3 is powerful.