The responsible way to unplug from emails while on holiday

Holidays are for relaxation, not replying to emails

Summer holidays – a time for rest, relaxation and a regular supply of cocktails on the beach. Unfortunately, the demands of a full-time job have a nasty habit of creeping in. A survey of 1,000 people by Origin Storage found that 73 per cent admit to being in contact with the office while away on annual leave, with nearly 40 per cent saying that they felt stressed on holiday due to checking their emails every day.

Of course, legitimate work crises can erupt over your summer break – events don’t tend to care whether you’re in Malta or Moorgate. David Cameron, for example, had to cut short a holiday in Cornwall in 2011 because an intermittent phone signal kept him from being updated on the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. And maintaining a low level of connectivity could even cut down on stress, leaving you with a less bulging inbox on your return. The same Origin Storage study found that 44 per cent stay connected because of fears over job security if they’re off the grid. So how to strike the right balance?


It won’t happen by accident, says Alexandra Samuel, author of Work Smarter, Rule Your Email. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, she recommends asking yourself: what’s the minimum level of connectivity I can get away with? Rather than constantly monitoring all emails, messages and other channels (which could see you dragged into a swamp of unnecessary back and forth with your colleagues), try limiting it to just one device. Set an out-of-office that invites people to send a text if it’s urgent, limiting distractions to the (hopefully small) number of people that have your personal mobile number. Another option is to set up email inbox filters for important contacts (your boss, close colleagues, family), and only check this folder.

Alex Cavoulacos, writing for The Muse, says that prepping your colleagues can be just as important as getting your emails in order. Talking to them 10 to 15 days before you leave means they can’t accuse you of springing any surprises on them, while making sure you’ve delegated responsibilities clearly will reduce the chance of you being contacted unnecessarily. Put it all down in an email – and make sure everyone has seen it.


If it’s imprudent to make yourself completely uncontactable, there are at least ways to ensure only the most crucial messages get through once you’re on the beach. Samuel recommends turning off push notifications for all apps, social media and email accounts.

She recalls being notified of a new shared Evernote document her colleagues created while she was away, called “Things to discuss with Alex when she gets back.” Hardly relaxing reading material for a holiday-goer.

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