Afraid your email pile will grow sky high during vacation? Read these email-busting tips 

June 27, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources, ,
Stick figure of person walking up a pile of envelopes, representing emails.

With the Fourth of July weekend just ahead of us, summer vacation season is quickly heating up. Preparing for vacation may have you thinking about barbecue menus, searching for last year’s beach inflatables and buying that new bathing suit.

But to really get ready for a summer escape you need to put some planning behind emails. Yes, emails!

Planning ahead and using the right out-of-office message can dramatically reduce the pile of emails just waiting to crowd those blissful vacation memories right out of your brain.

These tips from Michigan Medicine CEO Marschall Runge, M.D., Ph.D., and his Time & Stress Management Task Force can help you take control of your inbox and make your transition back to work life much easier.

Make a backup plan

You might have some concerns about taking a whole week (or longer) away with so many projects underway. Leaders also worry about team members who need their guidance.

To reduce pre-vacation anxiety, leaders should work with their teams to ensure there is  balanced coverage for core work tasks while they or others are out of the office, while peers can pair up and trade off related tasks during their holidays.

Once this is decided, explain your backup plan to peers and clients, and share who will respond to immediate tasks and questions directly in your out of office email message. Rather than delegating, think of it as a way to teach others and promote independence — a win-win for everyone.

Here is more advice on how to use your Chain of Command to leave your “work brain” behind on your summer vacation.

Put your phone down and delete notifications

Consider writing trip and related information on paper to minimize how often you engage with technology. Reduce the temptation to check work emails, Microsoft Teams or other work-related social media channels by adjusting or toggling off alerts or turn off the notifications for certain apps altogether. Watch this video on how to toggle or set alerts.

You can easily use the do not disturb feature in Outlook for set times and days. Here are more outlook tips and tricks from Microsoft to help you manage and reduce your inbox.  

Let your out-of-office message work for you

Many out-of-office emails tell us when you will be gone and when you will be back, but lack direction on how to send your requests to prevent emails — with important requests or information — from lingering in your inbox for days following your return. Below are some helpful examples of how you can reword your out-of-office message to help you and those seeking your input.

The Time & Stress Management Task Force recognizes that each individual and team is unique within our organization. There are many clinical faculty and staff who do not keep “normal business hours,” or delegate tasks differently between team members and across shifts.

Simply adapt and customize the language of your message accordingly.

“Thank you for your patience with my reply. I’m away from email through MMDDYYYY, taking a break and relying on my team to keep things moving in my absence. Please reach out to XX for Y needs, XX for Z needs, or hold your message if not urgent until my return.”

“I will be out of office through MMDDYY and will not be checking my emails. If the matter requires my attention specifically and can wait until my return, I kindly request that you send your email after MMDDYY so that it is at the top of my inbox for review. If your request is urgent, please contact XYZ for a more immediate response.”

Thank you for your email. I am away from my office and email through MMDDYY, relaxing and enjoying a break from work. I hope you understand that, over this period of time, many emails will gather in my inbox with little time to respond to all of them in a timely manner upon my return. If this is an important matter, please resend your email after MMDDYY. Thank you for your understanding. 

With gratitude,

Going on a ‘staycation’ or grabbing a short wellness break? Planning also helps here. 

In this new remote and hybrid world, many will take breaks from “normal work hours” or head off on a short vacation with plans to fill in some time to catch up with work. Making your team and others aware of your plans, and the unusual schedule you may keep, can help manage expectations about when and how you may respond to incoming emails.

This also creates an opportunity to explain that you don’t expect responses beyond “normal working hours” and show how you embrace wellness and support them in understanding this need for yourself and others.

Below are some suggested out of office messages and phrases that you can use as a template to build your own customized response.

I will be out from (time/day) for a brief work break. I’m doing this for wellness reasons and I encourage you to do the same. During this (time period) I work flexibly and may send emails outside normal working hours. Your immediate response is not expected.

Please know that I honor and respect boundaries around personal and vacation time. This is critical for the advancement of workplace well-being. I may send or respond to emails outside typical work hours as best fits my work schedule. I do not expect a response outside of regular work hours.

I choose to work flexibly and send emails outside typical office hours. Feel free to read, act on or respond at a time that works for you.

Due to my vacation/work life schedule crossover, you may receive emails from me outside of typical work hours. Please do not feel any pressure to respond outside of your own work schedule.

For more tips on how to reduce unnecessary emails and meetings, you may want to read the ‘Do you really need to send that email?’ Headlines article or visit these other well-being resources from the Time & Stress Management Task Force.