Avoiding the Dreaded Post-Vacation Deluge



Q: Last week you gave a reader advice on how to keep his office from calling him while on vacation. I have a slightly different vacation problem. I dread having to face the zillion emails that are waiting in my inbox on my first day back. I do send the standard “out of the office” message but it does little to alleviate the problem. Is there something else that can be done so my inbox isn’t bursting when I return?

A: You are not alone. This is an almost universal problem. Some people even check their email while on vacation precisely to avoid it, but I definitely don’t recommend that. In order to rest, recharge and return with a clear mind, you must truly disconnect and leave work behind.

So here are a few things you can try.

First, I’ll offer a radical new idea being used by some companies (Huffington, Post Daimler) which I hope catches on in popularity.

Here’s how it works:  When employees are on vacation their “out of the office” message says something like “This employee is on vacation and per company policy, this email will be automatically deleted. If you need to reach someone right away please contact this other person, otherwise kindly resend your message after they return”.

Isn’t that brilliant? The company sends a message that says we want our employees to relax and they are not expected to respond while on vacation. And they place the onus on the sender to re-send if it’s that important.

But if your company is not this progressive yet, what else can you do?

  1. Lower expectations – have your autoresponder say you will not have access to or will not be checking email.
  2. You could try writing a similar message and having your auto-responder delete your emails (or place them in a folder), if you have enough clout to pull that off.
  3. Fudge the return date by a day or two. If people don’t expect you back until Tuesday, you have Monday to catch up and fly under the radar.
  4. See if you can work from home on your first day back which will at least protect you from the “How was the cruise?” type of questions from co-workers.

Lastly, try sharing with your employer what those two companies are doing. It can’t hurt and it could open their minds.

Originally published on the HR Box blog.


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: