Some time ago, I wrote over at TreeHugger about the best vacation email response ever. Having sent a message to a well-known environmental author, I instantly received the following missive back:
I'm away from _______ to ________. I'm not self-loathing enough to try to respond to every email when I get back, so if it's important email me again anytime from the __th onwards and I will respond. You can try me on __________ any time if it is urgent, but I don't think it will be working. Now go ask yourself the question 'How many people can I make smile today?'. Now there's a challenge actually worth doing!
It made me smile. And I have referred back to it many times when I remind myself and others that there's more to life than responding to email and being available 24/7. In fact, since reading that message I have made it a rule to not check my work email over the weekend, and I have told my clients they need to call me if it's urgent — otherwise a response will just have to wait.
In France, taking such a stance may be about to get easier. CNN Money reports that a new law may protect French workers who want to "disconnect" from email and/or their smart phones once they have left the office. It's part of a wider trend which some companies have started themselves, says CNN, barring workers from emailing overnight or even completely shutting down their servers.
I'm sure that some people will freak out about government overreach or "lazy" European culture, but the fact is that most of us spend way too much time answering emails. Taking some time to rest and recuperate could actually increase productivity and worker satisfaction. (It works in The Netherlands, after all.)
Now excuse me. It's time I got some sleep.