How to Deal (or Not Deal) With Work Email on Vacation

Friends plan a vacation with the help of a laptop

Kaitlyn Duling
Kaitlyn Duling63
April 19, 2024 at 3:34PM UTC
There are certain things you should always bring with you on vacation—comfy shoes, sunscreen, an extra phone charger, etc. There are also things you should leave a home, like video games, heavy hardback books, and work concerns. If you’ve ever found yourself sitting on the beach with your toes in the sand and your mind on your office to-do list, you probably need a quick redesign on your approach to balancing vacation and career. Similarly, if you’ve ever slumped at your desk the day after vacation, horrified at the mountain of garbage in your inbox, it might also be time for a reset.
When planning for your upcoming vacation, you’ll need to add “Make Work Email Plan” to your list, along with your packing plan, travel plan, and ten thousand other “manageable” plans that make your head spin and cause you to need that vacay. If you don’t make a Work Email Plan, trust me, you’re going to:
1. Check your email every five minutes during your trip, causing everyone’s time to revolve around Wi-Fi availability and turning your dream getaway into…well…remote work.
2. Completely ignore your work email in favor of fun, drinks, relaxation, sunshine, adventure—and go crazy when you return, buried under a mountain of messages.
Since both of these options suck, I recommend Option C: Make a Work Email Plan. This isn’t hard! It just means scheduling a few minutes every other day or each day, depending on the length of your vacation, in order to quickly eye-up your work email. This also means choosing a respectable number of messages (two to three) to reply to during Email Time. Only two or three. Seriously. If you follow this plan, you will cover the if-I-don’t-reply-to-this-immediately-shit-will-actually-hit-the-fan emails, and it’ll even help you cover the it-could-maybe-wait ones, too. 
Don’t forget: If you do decide to Make a Work Email Plan, you will also need to make a very carefully-worded and enthusiastic automatic reply for those who do (rudely) choose to email you while you are (clearly) away from the office. I like to go with something cheerful and kind that ensures the reader I will reply to their message promptly upon my return. AKA I am not about to reply right now unless this is a Level 5 Emergency.
“Thanks so much for your message. I am currently away from my desk (and out of the country!) but I will respond to your email as soon as I can upon my return on X date. Have a great week.”
For me, the automatic reply works wonders. I don’t feel the need to respond to everything in my inbox, but I don’t give up valuable vacay time either—time that is written into my contract, that I am owed, and that I (actually) earned. It’s important to remember, too, that those precious days of relaxation have been shown to improve work productivity.  So, by stepping away from your inbox for a few days—or even a couple weeks—you can come back happier, healthier, less stressed, and even more ready to take on whatever is thrown at you.
Kaitlyn Duling is an author, freelance writer, and poet who is passionate about supporting and uplifting other women. Her work can be found at

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