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How to deal with unread emails after your holiday

By Jana Angeles | 29 October 2019

With Christmas/New Years approaching, you probably have a holiday booked for Hawaii, or perhaps you’ve decided to take an extended leave in December/January because you just need to start the year fresh. No matter what holiday trips you have planned, coming back to a full email inbox is a gruelling task, and it can be tedious if you don’t have the right tools in place to manage your inbox while you’re away.

According to Radicati Group, the average office worker receives 121 emails daily. Whether we like it or not, checking emails takes up to 30 minutes out of our day and even more so when it comes to back and forth emails for specific tasks, projects or general enquiries from external parties. 

With that being said, it’s important to be organised and make it easier for yourself to smoothly return to work after taking leave, so having systems in place can make future you less regretful that you didn’t plan effectively. 

Here are some tips by Hubspot that can help you tackle the mammoth task of clearing out your inbox after you return from your holiday.

5 ways to deal with unread emails after your holiday

  1. Set up email filters.
  2. Have set expectations when setting up an out-of-office reply.
  3. Block off 2-3 hours of your morning for emails.
  4. Understand that some emails don’t warrant a response.
  5. Set up canned responses to respond faster. 

1. Set up email filters.

If you are in your last week of work, setting up automated email filters to go to designated folders can be a great way to separate high priority emails. This will be helpful, especially if you’re dealing with internal and external stakeholders, and don’t want to miss out on any important updates when you’re on holiday leave. If you’re wondering how you can implement filters for your emails on Gmail, you can check out this YouTube tutorial to help organise your emails easily. 

2. Have set expectations when setting up an out-of-office reply.

out of office concept

When determining the most appropriate out-of-office response, you must first set the expectations for those expecting a reply from you as soon as you come back from leave. You can be clever with your responses as well by doing a shameless plug of your company’s blog content or similar.

An example email can look like this:

Hi there,

Thanks for your email. I am currently on leave and will not be back until [insert date of return]. I will do my best to respond to all pending enquiries when I return. For anything urgent, please reach out to [name] at [email]. In the meantime, read the latest updates on [company’s blog].

[Signature or Name]

From the above email template, it’s always best to note when you will be returning after your holiday but also directing another person from you team to take care of any urgent matters. This is a suitable way to delegate tasks so you’re less overwhelmed when you come back to work. It also ensures that any high priority tasks are being looked after while you’re gone. 

3. Block off 2-3 hours of your morning for emails.

When you get back to the office after your holiday, you may want to block off at least 2-3 hours of your morning just for emails. You’ll most likely not be in a position to do any major tasks since this will be a time for you to “settle” back and get into the groove of your usual day-to-day tasks at work. Ensure you have something in your calendar to let people know that you won’t be available for meetings or any other agendas until you work through your inbox and respond to those awaiting a reply from you. 

4. Understand that some emails do not warrant a response.

email icon

You may have the urgency to respond back to the majority of your emails but in most cases, this won’t be feasible. When you have a backlog of tasks to do, the last thing you want to do is spend a whole day organising your inbox and responding to everyone that has emailed you in the last 4 weeks. It’s important to accept that this is not always possible. 

If someone still needs to be in touch with you, they will send a follow up email regarding their initial enquiry, or they will contact you over the phone so the matter is dealt with quickly. Don’t stress about leaving an email unresponded, especially if the enquiry is not at all urgent. 

5. Set up canned emails to respond faster. 

Did you know that Gmail has the ability to save emails you can use as templates to send off to people? These are known as “Canned Responses” and they help you save time by not retyping the same response to send to a different person. Having canned responses are useful to have since it relieves you from copying and pasting multiple times and makes you use your time efficiently

If you need further ideas on what type of templates you should be using to respond to your internal and external stakeholders, check out this post by RescueTime blog where it outlines different templates on meeting requests to handling an upset customer

Manage administrative tasks like a boss

It can be overwhelming to deal with an overflowing email inbox but at the end of the day, it is an inevitable task for most employees at the office. If you’re keen to develop your skills in business administration and want to improve on highly administrative duties like email management, Upskilled has business administration courses that can help you handle these tasks at hand. 

Most courses can be completed within 12 months and are self-paced, so you can study at a time that suits you while juggling work and other commitments. Get in touch with an Upskilled education consultant and see how further study can help you with your career. 
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