Best vacation reply? Or not?

The dilemma of going on vacation — coming back from vacation to an inbox full of emails. I know how many emails I get on a daily basis, and multiply that by the number of days away makes for a long time to catch up when you return. I hate to think about all the emails I will have when I return from vacation before I go on vacation.

Daimler has this policy that I found after reading this article “The Fundamental Unfairness of the Vacation Auto Reply” for when their employees go on vacation:

“The car and truck maker has implemented a new program that allows employees to set their email software to automatically delete incoming emails while they are on vacation.

When an email is sent, the program, which is called “Mail on Holiday,” issues a reply to the sender that the person is out of the office and that the email will be deleted, while also offering the contact information of another employee for pressing matters.”

That would be amazing. What baffles me a bit though is it says offering contact information of another employee for pressing matters. I am a bit of a customer service buff. So is that like writing to a store that happens to be closed and their auto reply is to have you send them an email during the hours they are open? What is the person who emailed the individual on vacation supposed to do if they do not have a pressing matter? Make a reminder for themselves to contact them again a week later? Feels like it would be amazing for the individual on vacation, but not such great service for the person who needs their help.

Separate from needing help, what about organization emails that share pertinent information? Those I assume would get deleted as well? That does not make sense to me either. Part of sending a mass message like that is to inform a large group of people at one time. The sender assumes the recipient will read the information and consume it at their convenience. It is up to the recipient to retain that information, but if you were on vacation and had “Mail on Holiday” you might miss out on necessary information to do your job.

What do you think?

Does email facilitate the work?

We are all drowning in email. No one likes it, everyone hates it, and yet it rules our life. It is true. How often do you send an email rather than picking up the phone? How often do you send an email rather than walking down the hall? I am just as much to blame. I like email for a few reasons:

_I have more control over my end of the conversation. I can say what I need to say, and be done. On a phone call, the conversation can go one of many directions. I might not be prepared or comfortable with those many directions.

_An email is an electronic copy of the interaction. Someone might tell you verbally they will meet a deadline, but when it is in writing you have a copy of that agreement. A phone call can be misinterpreted or does not keep that agreement in writing.

_I enjoy walking down the hall to see you and chat further, but it is not always as quick. I might get an immediate answer (and my question is not sitting in your inbox waiting) but five people might also stop me along the way, so it might not be the most efficient part of my day.

_Email allows you to respond on your time. That might be early in the morning, or late at night, but it is on your terms.

So when I read this Fast Company article: “Secrets from the CEO Who Achieves Inbox Zero Every Day” I was curious to learn more about how a CEO actually gets to zero every day. It feels impossible. He shares some great tips, This idea especially resonates with me:

“Think of email as facilitating work, not as work in and of itself.”

For someone who is often in meetings all day, I can relate to this idea. Since I am rarely at my desk, email is often the way I can share information, ask questions, get updates, and communicate with my team. It does feel like it is the work, but I really like the idea of it just facilitating the work. That does not mean that we could not all use some of the tips from Rajeev Goel (CEO in the article). We can all be better, get rid of the extraneous and unnecessary emails, and find ways to be more streamlined and save everyone’s time.

What do you think?

Do you need a vacation intervention?

Americans, we have a problem. We do not know how to stop. I am one of the biggest offenders. We do not know how to truly go on vacation. This CNN article from last fall “Americans taking fewest vacation days in four decades” is quite scary. In 2013 Americans were only taking an average of 16 days off a year (about 3 weeks). For someone who has not been at my company long enough to accrue a large number of hours that does not seem so bad, but when you compare it to the average of other countries where Austria has 35 days a year (7 weeks of vacation or almost 2 months).

This is not a new topic, but it is one that I think as Americans we need to constantly revisit. Why do we give up our vacation? Why do we check into work while we are supposed to be relaxing and recouping from our day-to-day world? Some folks want to show their commitment to their jobs and company (I do not have that problem, my commitment shows regardless if I take some time off). Others might be addicted to the buzz of the distraction. My reason? It takes to damn long to catch up on emails and work when you get back from vacation. You need a vacation to catch up after being on vacation. Often it is easier to keep your inbox cleaned up, clear out the junk for a bit of time while you are away. So maybe I have a problem.

When start-ups and tech companies are granting unlimited vacation I think — amazing! Yet, then I also wonder, will you have so much work and feel so strapped to get shit done, that you never take it? Having never worked for a company with an unlimited vacation policy, how do they make sure folks play fair and use the time in a balanced way? Have we become over productive as a society? Or is the rise of unlimited vacation policies a way for companies to have their employees work hard and play hard. It has to be much hard to manage when a company grows to the thousands to hundreds of thousands. Does it only work for smaller companies? How would such a policy feel to you?

I am worried about myself and my fellow Americans. Do we take enough time for our spouse? Our kids? Our larger family? Do we explore new cultures? Do we go and sit our butts on a sandy beach and fall asleep never worrying what is happening back at work? Or do we go on vacation and constantly check in? Never turning off our mobile devices and never truly focused on the rest we so grossly deserve. America needs an intervention!

This video from Visa, while an ad to go and spend money on your Visa card is spot on.

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