Guest Blogger and Harper Grey associate, Tricia Milne, shares her thoughts on burnout, managing expectations and whether or not you really need to respond to that email while sitting on the beach.
Life in Law was recently asked by a young professional, “am I supposed to look at work emails while on vacation?” This question is valid and likely considered by many at some point during their careers.
The COVID-19 pandemic and months of social distancing have left many feeling the need for some respite from work – time to relax, recharge and reenergize. Regardless of your profession, title, or seniority, a vacation, however, often brings uncertainty about how to navigate your many commitments while away from the office. One issue that often arises is what to do about work emails while on vacation. Are you supposed to read them and respond to them? Is it okay to ignore them entirely?
While there is no “one size fits all” approach to dealing with emails while on vacation, it is becoming increasingly understood that truly disconnecting from the office benefits everyone in the long run – both you and your clients. With stress and burnout two of the most prevalent health and wellness issues facing lawyers today, taking time away from work can benefit mental health, improve productivity, and ultimately reward you with career longevity.
What works best will vary based on your personality and current obligations. The key is to communicate your intentions with colleagues and clients so that nobody is caught by surprise. Depending on your position, that might mean communicating your intentions before your vacation by sending a pre-vacation alert to colleagues, key contacts or clients, letting them know that you will be away for a certain period of time, and that you will or will not be reading or responding to emails while away from the office. Or, it might be that all that is necessary is an out of office alert providing the same information.
If you can’t completely step away, setting up a daily contact time can let you have the best of both worlds. The daily contact can allow you to touch base with a select person in the office to be informed of key developments, and to send emails or make any necessary phone calls. I like to schedule my email “check in”, for example, at a time when my family is otherwise occupied – early in the morning when they are asleep, or during a time when I know they will be busy with other activities. The trick is to not let your daily contact run into all hours of your day. Stay committed to a small window of time, so that you can enjoy your time away and be engaged with those with whom you’ve chosen to spend your vacation.
You deserve a break, your clients deserve a productive professional, and your family and friends deserve uninterrupted time with you too. By now we’ve all heard the phrases, “unplug to unwind”, “tune out to tune in”, and “disconnect to connect”. Let those be your mantra before your next trip out of the office.
About the Author
Tricia Milne began her career in law as a Crown Prosecutor and later segued into quasi-criminal litigation. Her litigation practice focuses on fraud, conspiracy, and conversion claims in the commercial and insurance realm.