Checking your email on vacation can be just as tempting as checking your text messages at work.
In fact, 44% of working adults say they check work email every day while on vacation, according to the American Psychological Association. About one in 10 check email hourly.
The temptation is understandable. Who wants to click through hundreds or thousands of emails after returning from a time of rest and relaxation?
Some people even say the post-vacation email deluge makes them dread going on vacation in the first place.
However, research shows that stress levels tend to increase when you have access to your inbox during your time off, and that in order to return to work refreshed and rejuvenated, you need to unplug completely during vacation.
Here are five email hacks that can hopefully help you do that this holiday season:
Natalie Walters contributed to a previous version of this article.
Set your auto-responder to expire a couple of days after you get back from vacation
“The most important hack is to setting the expectation that you will be back later,” Dmitri Leonov, VP of growth for Sanebox, previously told Business Insider. This buys you a couple of extra days to play catch-up at work before responding to emails, and gives you the peace of mind while you’re away that your return to work won’t be totally overwhelming.
Plus, when you come back to work on Monday but your out-of-office email doesn’t expire until Wednesday, people are really impressed when you get back to them first thing Wednesday morning, Leonov says.
Install a filter to separate important or urgent emails from unimportant, non-urgent ones
Everyone should have a filter that sorts emails into “important” and “unimportant” folders, Leonov says. These filters, like Google priority or his own tool, Sanebox, allow you to quickly scan through your unimportant emails and delete them all at once when you return to work.
“Having an active filter is going to save you a disproportionate amount of time when you’re back,” Leonov says.
Filter out recurring emails
Daily updates from your go-to news sites or weekly notifications about meetings are helpful — if you’re in office.
While you’re out of the office, though, make sure to filter out these recurring updates, notifications, and newsletters so you don’t waste time deleting them during or after vacation when they are obsolete.
Auto-delete emails while you’re away
Companies like Daimler and The Huffington Post have instituted a unique opt-in vacation email policy for their staff. These companies allow employees to use proprietary vacation email tools that automatically delete emails and send an auto-responder message while employees are on vacation.
If only we all worked for companies that valued the sanctity of vacation that much.
For those of us who don’t, there is a workaround in Gmail that brings us pretty close.
1. Set up your vacation responder
Step 1: Click on the settings button on the right-hand corner of the page.
Step 2: At the bottom of the General Settings page, click the toggle button next to “Vacation responder on.”
Step 3: Set the dates for when you’ll be away.
Step 4: Type your subject line — something as simple as “I’m On Vacation — your email has been deleted” could work.
Step 5: Include more details in the body of your responder if you like. You could say, “I’m on vacation until X, and all emails I receive until my return will be automatically deleted, including this one. Please feel free to re-send your email after I return.”
Step 6: Save your changes.
2. Set up a filter that will remove all messages from your inbox as they arrive
Step 1: Scroll back up to the top of the General Settings page, click on the Filters and Blocked Addresses tab.
Step 2: Click on “Create new filter” on the bottom of the page.
Step 3: In the next screen, set the Size as greater than 0 MB. This should capture all your incoming emails under this one filter.
Step 4: Click on “Create filter with this search.”
Step 5: In the next screen, select “Skip the Inbox (Archive it)” and “Mark as read.”
Step 6: Click on “Create filter.”
And that’s it. All incoming emails will skip your inbox and head straight to your archives. They won’t be deleted forever, but they also won’t be nagging you in your inbox.
To turn this vacation mode off, in the Filters Settings tab, simply tick the box next to your new filter, which should say “Matches: larger: 0M Do this: Skip Inbox, Mark as read,” and on the right, click “delete.” Then head to your General Settings and turn your vacation responder off.
Rally for a company-wide ban on after-hours emails
If none of these tricks will work for your upcoming holiday vacation, and you find the allure of your work email too tempting to ignore while you’re away, perhaps you need to think about a more long-term solution. One that could ultimately work involves pushing for a big cultural change at work, which will take time.
In France, the amendment to a French labour reform bill suggests that companies of 50 or more employees draft formal policies specifying when employees shouldn’t be sending or receiving email. If after-hours emails are a company-wide epidemic where you work, it may be time you ask your employer to do something about it.