Is Anyone Planning on Drafting an “Email Charter” This Holiday Season?

Photo by Thom on Unsplash.

If you’re lucky enough to get any of the next several days off from work, are you going to be able to spend them fully off from work? Or are you going to be checking your email?

You can count me in as an email checker, a Slack checker, and a “make sure the week’s Billfold posts publish when they’re supposed to” checker. (I have them all scheduled in advance, but I’ve occasionally mistyped a date or time, so it’s worth confirming the next day’s schedule the night before.)

I’m even going to be checking in on your comments, because I love reading the comments—and because we have some really good posts coming up next week, so I’m eager to know what you think of them.

But back to email. Slate’s Cynthia Lawson has a few thoughts on how to stop checking email when we’re on vacation, starting with the idea of creating reasonable boundaries for yourself:

Do you want to give yourself half an hour each day to focus on email or not look at it at all until Jan. 2? What would your ideal email diet be, and how does it match up with your current reality?

In my case, I’ll probably do quick checks at the beginning and the end of the day, and I’ll only respond to emergency-level stuff.

Then Lawson suggests creating reasonable boundaries with your colleagues:

Consider sharing this article with your colleagues to discuss over lunch. What are some small steps that you all agree could be taken now to make sure everyone has a happy holiday with minimal work stress?

The problem with this idea is that the people in charge set the email culture, and although you can discuss it all you want at the peer level, you’re still going to have to do email the way the boss does it.

Lawson also suggests drafting an “email charter,” which… depending on the workplace and your position in the hierarchy, could go very badly. I’m thinking of that Ask A Manager where the interns drafted a petition to change the dress code and got fired.

Plus “email charter” feels a little outdated. These days nearly all of my professional conversations happen over Slack, and email is where I get pitches and spam. (I read the pitches.)

I will tell you the one thing I did this year that helped my work-life balance, though: I removed nearly all notifications from appearing on my phone’s lock screen and home screen. (No red numbers!) I can see when I get texts, because they’re nearly always from family, and I can see when I get phone calls, which are either from family or robots.

But emails, Slack notifications, Twitter mentions, Tumblr reblogs, etc. etc. etc. are all hidden from view. If I want to see whether I’ve received any new messages on any of those apps, I have to make the choice to check them. (I got this idea from Businesslady Courtney Guerra’s Working Hard or Over-Working class, so… thank you, Courtney!)

How do you deal with email/Slack/etc. over your holidays or vacations? Do you find yourself setting different boundaries than you might set over, say, a weekend? (Are you able to set boundaries at all?)

Also: do you think your workplace would take an “email charter” seriously?

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