Daimler and the disappearing emails

keyboard delete

On today's show, we'll talk to the authors of an anxiety-inducing series of emails.

A lot of us go on vacation and set our email to auto-reply, but that still means we spend hours wading through hundreds of emails when we return. Well, car and truckmaker Daimler is giving its employees in Germany a new vacation option: auto delete.

About 100,000 Daimler employees can choose to have their incoming email permanently obliterated while on vacation.

Inbox Zero.

“To bring good input into the company you need also to rest and you need breaks," says Daimler spokesman Oliver Wihofszki. He says employees should return to work motivated and with a fresh spirit, so they "don’t have to think,‘Oh my God, I have to read 576 emails.'"

Instead, those 576 emails disappear. Their senders get a cheery notice with an emergency contact and the sign-off: "I appreciate your understanding!"

Here's the suggested auto-reply that Daimler employees in Germany can use:

Important Information: I’m using “Mail on Holiday”. Until DD.MM.YY your e-mails will be deleted.

In urgent cases please contact surname name, Tel. +49 XXXX-XX-XXXXX, surname.name@daimler.com

Thank you!

 “Mail on Holiday” is a Life-Balance offer at Daimler.

If you want me to read this e-mail personally, please be kind enough to send me the information after DD.MM.YY.
I appreciate your understanding!

Now, Daimler also has a plant in Tuscaloosa. But Wharton School management professor Peter Cappelli says auto-delete would be hard to pull off in America, with its always-on mentality.

“I would do it,” he says, “but that’s partly because not very many people actually need to talk to me.”

He says in the academic world, a footnote crisis does not mean imminent doom.

If you’re a company deleting email, however, you have to be sure your customers and vendors actually write to your emergency contact, so you don’t lose business.

Peter Cappelli says that means vendors might have to change the way they work.

“But it’s tricky to change the way you work for one out of your 100 clients,” he adds.

David Baggett created an app called Inky that helps manage email, not delete it. He says if you delegate email from one human to another, “then you still have a scaling issue. You still have another person that has to scale to a thousand messages a day potentially.”

Still, Daimler is forging ahead. The company piloted its “Mail on Holiday” program last year and says it doesn’t monitor which employees use it.

About the author

Kate Davidson is a regular contributor to Marketplace.


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