Is there any more wonderful feeling than turning on your out-of-office ahead of a break? That unique rush of endorphins tangled up with the promised scent of suntan lotion. In our overloaded, super-wired world, that joy often emanates from a specific peace in knowing that – for however long – no one can reach you and, once they get the automated reply back, no one is expecting anything of you.
Which is why it’s no surprise that more and more of us are tackling email fatigue by managing the expectations of those reaching out to us and setting up a permanent out-of-office.
Last week, Grazia held a series of events around our Unplugged issue, to discuss the effects of technology on women’s lives. Speaking at our Detox Kitchen Wake Up Well event, mindfulness expert Tamzin Muir explained that scientists found when you’re performing any task and a new email catches your eye, it takes on average 64 seconds to get your concentration back. Multiply that by however many emails you’re plagued by per day (plus office conversations and the flash of your phone), and some experts suggest you could be losing eight and a half hours a week just being distracted between tasks.The constant feeling you’re not getting anything done, or have enough time to do it, can lead to feelings of stress and a lack of sleep.
So, while automated replies were previously only the domain of faceless companies warning that high email traffic might mean a slow response, it makes sense for anyone who feels like they get as many emails as a small corporation to do it too. And in doing so, it releases you from repeatedly typing, ‘Hello, this is one for my colleague Rebecca,’ giving you the breathing and head space to reply to what’s important. And you’d be in good company. We at Grazia are constantly stymied (in a refreshing way) by our favourite people’s email blockades – Sir James Dyson recently revealed he only gets six emails a day, as so much of his business is now done face to face.
At first glance, the ‘I’m too busy for you right now’ message might come off as plain rude, even boastful. We’ve all felt a pang of bitterness at a flouncily written poolside OOO, but the jealousy only lasts a couple of weeks a year. And the permanent ‘no, I’m just ignoring you because I’ve got more going on’ version could be seen as a career-envy sucker punch. But perhaps we all could do with being reminded that people aren’t always at our beck and call, just because we’ve clicked the ‘High Priority’ button and cc’d in their boss for good measure.
Meanwhile, letting go of the FOMO long enough to stay true to monotasking and only checking in on the inbox when it suits you can feel impossible. But that permanent out-of-office could be the gatekeeper of your parameters – taking you from struggling and stressed to coping and calm. It sets expectations, manages your workload and lets people (yes, even your boss) know that, actually, you are too busy to reply right now. And we’ve got an automated message for you: it’s OK.