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Should organizations delete emails for employees on holiday?

Stop us if this sounds familiar. You are about to go on holiday for a couple of weeks and you are told to set an Out of Office message so people who email you will know you’re away. You are told to make it as professional and simple to understand as possible. So, you go on holiday knowing that everything work-related will be fine until you get back. However, for many of us, we will come back to a mailbox filled with hundreds of emails, including conference room notifications and other notices that have long since passed.

According to a recent article by the BBC, the German vehicle-maker Daimler has come up with an interesting approach to dealing with so-called ‘holiday email’. If you email an employee on holiday, you will receive a reply like this:

I am on vacation. I cannot read your email. Your email is being deleted. Please contact Hans or Monika if it’s really important, or resend the email after I’m back in the office. Danke Schoen.

These notifications appear to be getting a positive response from email recipient and many organizations are now looking into developing an auto-delete email policy. It is becoming increasingly more difficult for employees to ‘switch off’ when they are on holiday, especially when everyone can view their emails on home PCs and mobile devices.

A piece of government-funded research by Daimler in 2010 and 2011 was conducted on work-life balance with psychologists from the University of Heidelberg. It concluded that taking time off and leaving work completely behind is the best way for all employees to reconnect with their families and recharge their ‘batteries’.

Managers at Daimler are now encouraged to set aside times when no meetings are scheduled. This is supposed to be time when workers can concentrate on their jobs and avoid having to do extra hours at the office.

Daimler’s move followed Volkswagen’s decision to turn work emails off after office hours in 2011 and new guidelines in France have been set up ordering workers in some sectors to ignore work emails when they go home.

Even if your organization does not agree with deleting emails that are sent to employees who are on holiday, it is simple to automate responses with Exclaimer Auto Responder. With dedicated auto response software, you can not only define what the automated response should be, such as an Out of Office reply, but also the circumstances under which the response should be triggered (e.g. when an employee is away), what is to happen to the original email (e.g. forwarded to another member of the employee’s team) and the content/behavior of the automated reply message.