Email: can I resist?



I am about to experience what is sometimes termed a ‘life-changing event’. In fact, it is one of those events that one might speculate could prompt a ‘Digital Epiphany’ when you seriously reconsider or dramatically change your digital habits. I’m about to have a baby.

It’s become entirely normal to check email during times you wouldn’t consider actually being at work. For example, in one of our recent studies for the project, 38% of people sometimes or often checked their email while off work ill, and 28% looked during vacations. My question is whether I am going to end up looking at my email while on maternity leave. Interestingly, while pondering this I often wonder ‘what I’m going to do’ rather than ‘what I will choose to do’, almost as though whatever decision I consciously make (e.g. not to) something else may naturally happen (e.g. I’ll end up doing it anyway).

Many academics I’ve known have kept up with their email while on maternity leave, but I’m unsure whether this would actually be very effective for me, or simply draw me into those minor tasks which probably everyone else can do perfectly well without me, while not really leading to any substantial or meaningful work.

I’ve set my out of office to indicate that I won’t necessarily see anything that is sent while I’m on leave, and I think I might try to stick with this. But on the other hand, will I be tempted just to ‘keep in the loop’ or ‘check I’m not missing something’? Or perhaps when my days are filled with looking after a small baby I will miss the easy satisfaction replying to email brings, and therefore end up doing a bit. However, it seems a slippery slope, as once someone receives a reply they will deduce that your out of office policy is not quite as strict as you made out originally.

If I did manage to not look at my work email for the duration of my leave, I could maybe evaluate what I think I missed out on, when I return. I suspect not that much, but then opportunities which have passed never feel quite as vital as the ones for which there is an upcoming deadline…

I’ll try to write an update when I’m back, to let you know how I got on!

Rosie & the DE team


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