Pret CEO insists chain benefited from his holiday email detox

Clive Schlee

The boss of Pret A Manger has urged his staff to embark on an email amnesty when on holiday after recently going more than two weeks without checking his inbox and claiming the business was better off for it.

Writing in his latest blog post, CEO Clive Schlee revealed that when he took a vacation to Austria in August he completely cut himself off from the Pret business for the first time in 12 years.

“Like all of us lucky enough to have satisfying jobs, I am getting more and more emails early in the morning, late at night and throughout the weekend. And people at Pret expect prompt answers. The encroachment is becoming a problem. I wanted to set an example, and so between August 14th and September 1st, I gave myself 18 days off Pret emails.”

Schlee, whose chain operates more than 300 stores in the UK, said the result of his detox was “entirely positive” and, from a business point of view, meant staff got on with making decisions they might otherwise have shirked.

He wrote: “The relaxation effect of the holiday is increased by at least 100%. This is a wonderful result and needs no explanation. Your team will send each other fewer emails. They know you aren’t reading them and they will make more decisions for themselves. They told me they enjoyed my detox as much as I did.”

He added: “You will find that when you skim through your emails on your return, most of them are trivial or no longer relevant. Who now needs to know the sales in Pret US on Tuesday last week? I have concluded that a great deal of business email is motivated by the need to belong and stay involved and does not generate genuine commercial benefit.”

Schlee said he would be encourage other Pret people to follow his example in future and vowed that holidays he takes from now will be “email-free”.

Schlee also used the blog to offer his three top tips for other business people thinking of a self-imposed holiday email ban in future.

  1. Tell your colleagues, business partners, and teams about your plan. Most of them will congratulate you.
  2. Don’t cut yourself off from all internet contact. Just switch off your email account. You can keep phone, text, Twitter etc on for personal stuff whilst cutting out business. This is much easier and is just as relaxing. It also reduces FOBOL (fear of being offline) – FOMO’s sinister sibling!
  3. Persuade one of your colleagues to look over your emails once a day. It will seem scary but there are many people within Pret to whom I would have entrusted this task. Knowing that there is someone keeping an eye on the business in your absence makes you feel responsible and allows you to let go. If you don’t feel you can do this step, write a carefully crafted out of office message.
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