Linkage Love: Email and Out of the Office

By Brenda Bethman

IMG_0647As you know from my last post, I have travel on the brain right now (even more so now, since I leave in 10 days). I’ve also been out of the office a fair amount during the last month or so due to illness and travel, so this article in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye. Author Melissa Korn notes that despite a clearly-stated out-of-office message, some folks nonetheless emailed repeatedly during the time she’d stated she would be out of the office:

“I was horrified to see at least four or five notes following up on emails that had only been sent a day or two earlier–when my out-of-office response was already switched on. The senders knew I was out, yet they still felt the need to send another note, asking why I didn’t respond. One went so far as to send a text message to my personal cellphone after receiving my automatic reply, convinced that her news was too important to wait. (It wasn’t.)”

I also noticed this when I was out of the office with bronchitis in late April/early May. Despite an out-of-office reply that basically said “I’m sick and will read your email when I feel human again,” many students emailed daily with their queries. This also happened during spring break, with one student going so far as to find my cell phone number and texting me (no, that did not go down well).

Of course, part of the reason folks repeatedly email is because they assume that “out of office” doesn’t actually mean anything as many folks (like Korn did) continue to check their email when on vacation or ill, as this article on CNBC points out (“How the Smartphone Killed the Three-Day Weekend“).

To get around this expectation, danah boyd developed what she calls an “email sabbatical” and more folks are declaring “email bankruptcy” upon their return.

As student affairs professionals, it’s easy for us to lose boundaries as Stacy Oliver pointed out last summer but time off (especially after the craziness of April and May) is essential. Even I, notorious for my email habits, turned off last summer and this past Memorial Day weekend. The challenge I’m now finding is getting others to recognize that I really do mean it when I say I’m out of the office. But I’m hopeful that it will take as I prepare for my summer travels.

What about you? How do you turn off? And get others to respect your boundaries when you do?


Linkage Love: Email and Out of the Office

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