Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Family and Education sections.
One company is replacing "out-of-office" replies with auto-delete so workers don't fret about returning to a mountain of mail.
Even the most disciplined relaxers can find themselves just, you know, every now and then, taking a peek at their work email when they're away on vacation. Yes, their out-of-office reminders are set. Yes, they are really trying to enjoy their time away. And, yes, it'll just be there waiting for them, all the same, once they get back. But, nevertheless, they check.
Now, Daimler's German employees have the option of taking advantage of a new program, "Mail on Holiday," that will make this bad habit impossible: It auto-deletes all incoming email.
The Stuttgart-based car- and truck-maker said about 100,000 German employees can now choose to have all their incoming emails automatically deleted when they are on holiday so they do not return to a bulging in-box.
The sender is notified by the “Mail on Holiday” assistant that the email has not been received and is invited to contact a nominated substitute instead. Employees can therefore return from their summer vacation to an empty inbox.
“Our employees should relax on holiday and not read work-related emails,” said Wilfried Porth, board member for human resources. “With ‘Mail on Holiday’ they start back after the holidays with a clean desk. There is no traffic jam in their inbox. That is an emotional relief.”
As someone who plans to spend a good part of her own vacation catching up with a few far-flung friends over email, I find myself appreciating that the value of this program stems from an often-overlooked divide: the wall of separation between work and personal email.
There is a tendency to pin the stress of work on the medium—email, for the most part—via which that stress is delivered. When we hear of people spending hours on email after they've tucked their kids to bed, is it the system of email that's keeping them from relaxing? No. It's their jobs, though email is what allows their jobs to have that sort of access into their homes and personal time.
Daimler's program is a reminder that it doesn't need to be that way. Just as email has allowed work to flow into the home, it is a spigot that can be shut off. And, for those with both a work and a personal account, it's possible to do so without cutting off all the water to house.
This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.