Should you check your work e-mails on holiday?

Posted on Posted in Ask Alison

You might ensure that you always take your full holiday entitlement but do you really get totally away from work or are you guilty of checking your e-mails while you’re away?

Your break might be relaxing but, if you’re looking at your work e-mails while you’re away, are you really getting the chance to fully charge your batteries?

Surveys have suggested that over half of employees check their company e-mail while on holiday. Do you? And more importantly, should you?

One school of thought is that holidays should be exactly that – no work e-mails or phone calls.

Another is that, by checking in occasionally, you can stay on top of what’s happening back at the office, deal with anything important and, above all, not come back to an overflowing inbox.

Personally I do take some time each day (assuming I have wifi access) to check my e-mails. But that’s because I’m self-employed and, if I didn’t check in fairly regularly, I could miss some important business. When I was employed it was a different matter. Holidays meant time away from the office (and the associated politics that went with it) which meant NO e-mails.


So what should you do?

The first thing is to check with your employer. If you’re expected to be connected even when you’re away from the office you should be made aware of this and, at this stage, you should agree how you will be checking in (phone or e-mail) and how often.

Some companies will only expect senior employees to be contactable, others will expect it from everyone so, before you jet off, make sure you both understand whether or not you can be reached.


  • Make sure you’ve set an out of office autoreply before you go so that people won’t expect an immediate response from you.
  • Set aside ten minutes each day to check your e-mails (if that’s what’s expected of you) and then put your phone or laptop away. Delete any junk and only reply to urgent messages – anything else can wait until you’re back at your desk.


  • Be afraid to say no. If you’re conquering Kilimanjaro or honeymooning in the Maldives then it’s safe to say that work won’t be at the forefront of your mind.
  • Feel guilty. It’s your holiday after all – you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself, and having a break. If you spend too much time working (or even thinking about work) you could end up going back to the office feeling like you’ve never actually been away.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you check in now and again or are you of the ‘out of sight out of mind’ mind set?

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