One of the tasks I picked up at LexBlog is managing our email system. It is an interesting task, although largely uneventful when things are going well. Luckily they are usually going well.
Probably the most unusual aspect of doing this work is dealing with someone who has left the company. Not the administration of the account, the back-ups or retention, but the time between that part of the work and their departure. During this time, I am personally logging into the former co-worker’s account to make sure an important emails or services tied to their account are not overlooked.
It is a testament to the quality of people I work with that very rarely does anything serious crop up during this period. So the checking becomes really routine. But at no time does it feel normal.
Email inboxes are so personal, even work ones. They are the footprint of these departed people. So when I am wandering around in them. Seeing newsletter subscriptions they once read continue to roll in or an errant CC from someone still in the company are reminders of the impact they had on the company, and by not reading or answering these emails, the void they have left.
It is similar to the feeling I have had when I have helped clean out the home of departed family members. You know this is just stuff, in the case of emails, just some zeros and ones, but you cannot help but feel a certain sense of reverence around it. This was someone’s life, they poured effort and time into to. Even if though I am doing something as routine as archiving, I can’t help but feel some weird sense of weighty responsibility around that task.
Perhaps I am a bit overly sentimental, but I take this particular part of my job seriously and with as much respect and discretion as possible. Trying to treat the last remnants of my colleagues with the same respect I tried to show them while I worked with them.