Business travel whether for short or long stays can disrupt routine behaviour and if not identified they can lead to increasing stress levels either during or after a trip. A primary source of concern expressed by many is email, and even more so since the launch of mobile devices. All you need is a smart phone and a WiFi connection and you can set-up an instant office no matter where in the world you are travelling. With instant technology at our finger tips, staying connected has never been so easy. The risk, however is allowing email to distract us from our main goal and tipping the scale on work/life balance in the ‘wrong’ direction.
The most used communication tool in business is email, but if not managed appropriately and efficiently they can loose their impact. Emails allow us to stay connected with work colleagues and customers wherever and whenever we want. They allow us to share files, photos and documents. They can be filed as a record of communication. With all the positive attributes of email, they have two obvious negative features namely that they can disrupt your day and start to filter into family-time or ‘down time’.
Managing your inbox is a skill many of us have to work hard at perfecting or we risk falling into the trap of ‘being at work’ 24×7. How many emails land in an inbox daily is often dependent on the position held within a company and whether you manage a team of employees or not.
Steps to good email management
- Email can be very distracting if you keep visiting your inbox throughout the day. Instead, set-up predetermined times to sit down and read through and reply to emails. Use times of the day when your energy and creativity levels are at their lowest
- Turn-off visual and audible alerts that a new email has arrived in your inbox to avoid distraction
- Put a time limit in place for dealing with email to avoid missing deadlines on important projects
- Unsubscribe from promotional emails that add little or no value
- Prioritise – set-up a filing system to move emails into and then deal with the most important ones first
- Where a reply is required, trust your judgement and deal with the email immediately before moving on to the next one.
- Prioritise – scan through emails you are copied in on after reading those directed to you for action.
- Communication – share with your team the procedure you endeavour to follow on dealing with email while ‘out-of-office’. In that way they will respect your time and know that you value their communication.
- Use an auto-responder to communicate about your business travel and the likely delay in responding to email due to unpredictable travel delays, country time difference and your meeting schedules.
- Set meetings in place if an email can best be dealt with face-to-face rather than typing out lengthy replies.
- Set-up Apps to stay connected with loved ones and for genuine emergencies.
Today, it is easier than ever to stay connected. It has very much become part of our life-style and the pace at which we now do business. However, establishing a routine to manage a healthy work/life balance is critical.
If you are on business travel of a few days or longer it may be worth booking business travel accommodation with a designated area to sit and work. Sitting on a bed to work won’t empower the brain to send out the most effective communication. Many serviced apartments have a desk so you can set-up your laptop and even use the dining-room table to host meetings with a colleague or two.