The out-of-office email is fast becoming redundant as work and personal lives blend and smart phones intrude on recreational time.

Australian research suggests as many as three in five people check work emails while on holiday.

A survey by The Australia Institute found this was the case for 17.8 per cent of respondents and rates were higher among full-time workers (22.6 per cent compared to 8.9 per cent of part-timers) and among professionals and managers (22 per cent).

Meanwhile, a survey by travel-booking website I Want That Flight placed the figure closer to 58 per cent - including 10 per cent of respondents who checked work emails several times a day.

Advertisement

Hays managing director for Queensland Darren Buchanan said he no longer set an out-of-office when he went on leave.

"Someone at my level in any organisation should expect to be available to deal with any urgent issues that staff might need support on," he said.

"Although, there is a focus on work/life balance for employers and employees, an out-of-office may not be possible for some people, especially decision makers and executives who need to remain reachable at all times. Also there is a trend of more people starting up their own businesses and therefore need or want to be online at all times."

Amber Werchon, director of Amber Werchon Property, also avoids the out-of-office.

She said it was used only when uncontactable in a conference or if on a yoga retreat.

"I check every day when I am on holidays, minimum. I've got family staying with us for Christmas at the moment and I don't have my out-of-office on," she said.

"Technology has meant we are far more mobile which then has created an expectation of the speed of response and accessibility.

"The real estate industry is an out-of-office industry anyway. We have to be productive in the car, between appointments, on the beach. You can be productive anytime now, which is awesome but it's a double-edged sword I guess."

KPMG demographer Bernard Salt said even if a worker did set an out-of-office, it likely wouldn't mean what it used to.

"People do not totally disconnect from work," he said.

"Work is like a monster that has broken free from its cage and eaten up little bits of Saturdays and Sundays and four-week holidays.

"In some respects, it leads to extraordinary levels of productivity and output but the cost is long term ... you may burn out by the time you are 45. Work fatigue may be a problem of the future because of that lack of disconnection."

Anna Musson of etiquette training company Good Manners said it was bad etiquette to not set an out-of-office, even if a worker didn't plan to completely disconnect.

"We want to give the impression we are checking emails and onto it but it is a curtesy to say 'I am on annual leave and checking emails periodically' otherwise (a delayed response) can lead to the perception you are unprofessional, sitting at your desk just looking at Boxing Day sales online," she said.

"You've also got to be mindful of when you send an email. Can it wait? It sends a message to colleagues that it is the culture of the business that they should also be available 24/7."