Work/Life Balance

If workplaces want to cut back on burnout, vacation email bans may be a good start

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Vacation work

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For some employees, there’s no judgment for not checking work email while on vacation. In fact, a few companies now suspend the accounts while workers take time off to help them recharge.

“I learned it does not matter what position you hold; things can be handled when you are not here. It’s a lesson I have never forgotten,” Veta Richardson, president and CEO of the Association of Corporate Counsel, told the Washington Post. The ACC recently was awarded by the Society for Human Resource Management as an employer that stood out for promoting work-life balance.

Richardson in 2010 took a three-week trip, unplugged, to India after her mother died and did something similar in 2011 when she visited China. When she got back, she made the benefit available to all ACC employees.

“We told staff you should not feel the need to keep up with email while you are on leave or the need to come back to an overwhelming inbox,” she said.

The adjustment can be difficult.

“I was definitely twitchy for a while,” said Catherine Moynihan, senior director of the ACC’s legal management services. She unplugged, at Richardson’s urging, during a two-week trip to Australia.

“It allowed me to really forget about work, not have it be in my dreams and in my night wakings,” Moynihan said.

The article mentions a 2014 study (PDF) by the University of British Columbia. It found that people who check email frequently have higher stress levels because their attention constantly shifts between jobs and rearranging schedules.

And in France, a new law requires that companies with at least 50 employees create plans to keep office emails from dipping into life outside work. A French study, which found that “info-obesity” from technology causes health problems such as sleeplessness, prompted the law.

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