Summer time is the peak time for taking vacation. Which unfortunately means it's peak time for vacation autoresponders. You've probably already noticed an increase in autoresponders kicking back to you after sending emails. You may have even recently set up your own before heading out on vacation. (And we all know that one person at the office who just leaves their autoresponder on all the time.) The idea behind these simple automations is that they would alleviate the communication burden for folks cashing in their paid time off while also keeping at work colleagues informed about when they can expect a reply.

But are they really accomplishing that goal? A majority of workers in some industries report taking their laptops with them on vacation. And in a world where everyone has a smart phone, how likely is it that employees are going their full vacation without "checking in." In the modern world of work and vacation, all autoresponders appear to be doing is increasing the number of messages in everyone's inbox.

Except one policy.

For the past few years, automaker Daimler's Germany-based employees have been able to utilize a new type of autoresponder called "Mail on Holiday." As I explained in my book Under New Management, the system works similarly to most email autoresponders, with a brief message automatically returned to senders notifying them of the user's vacation.

But tucked inside the message is the genius of the program. The autoresponder not only informs senders of the user's vacation, it also notifies them that their message has already been deleted in order to provide a clean email inbox upon return from vacation.

Instead of a deluge of emails pouring in upon return, or worse, the ever-present itch to check email during time off to prevent said deluge, employees are able to rest, relax, and recharge during their down time. This new policy is in line with recent research, which suggests that vacations do have a positive effect on happiness and productivity, but only when they're well-planned and draw employees far away from work and work issues.

You may not have the authority to delete all vacation autoresponders (but if you do...get after it), but there are still practical steps you can take to better protect yourself from the siren song of email (and better enjoy your vacation). Try setting up your autoresponder for a few days longer than you're actually taking vacation. That way individuals still aren't expecting a response for awhile and you have time to slowly work your way through the deluge. More importantly, leave the laptop at home...and maybe even delete the mailbox app from your smartphone.

Published on: Aug 8, 2017