In many companies (including my employer), email is still the king of digital communications, no matter how many intranets, collaboration tools, file-sharing apps or social media sites might be orbiting around it.
Despite its failings, email in effect runs our work days and seemingly our lives. As hard as you might toil to prepare to take a proper vacation and actually stop working for a time, you’ll likely still check email. If you don’t, you’re only hurting yourself because it will all be waiting for you when you return, making your return to work doubly maddening.
Leave it to Europeans to say this madness has to stop so we can get some rest. German carmaker Daimler created the “Mail on Holiday” option, which allows some 100,000 employees to choose to have all incoming email deleted while they are away, according to Marketplace Business. When the option is applied to an employee’s email account, anyone attempting to email that employee receives a polite note explaining that their message will be deleted and they may choose to resend after the vacation end date. The message includes these gentle words of explanation: “’Mail on Holiday’ is a Life-Balance offer at Daimler.”
No word on how co-workers who may start to receive extra emails might be handling the process, but presumably turnabout is fair play in email, as in other areas of life.
Reuters columnist George Hay says that the email policy is moving in the right direction but doesn’t go far enough. Instead of being an option for employees, he writes, it should be mandatory for those taking vacation time. That way, fear of retribution for using the option is removed, and employees truly do get to relax during their time off.
Once in place, shifts in workplace communications practices, such as this policy, usually aren’t as hard to adjust to as some of us might imagine. Could American companies have enough faith in their employees to implement a true break from the tyranny of email, at least for a few days?
I am hoping that someday the answer will be yes.