It can be hard to take time off work, but making sure you actually disconnect during your vacation is even more challenging. Given the many ways we’re plugged in 24-7, it’s no wonder work can feel never-ending. (When you add in email and phone time, the “9-5 grind” often look more like 9-9 or 5-5.) That’s why setting an out-of-office auto-reply is so crucial.
We all know boundaries are our friends. (In addition to being happier, we’re actually more productive when we have some downtime.) One key way to get the most out of your vacation is to clearly set expectations both before you leave and while you’re gone.
What you need to do before writing your out-of-office reply
Firstly, before you take off for that lovely vacation you’ve been planning, be sure to alert your coworkers to your upcoming absence. You don’t have to go into details about how you’ll soon be snorkeling while they’re slogging away, but do let them know to expect your departure.
You can do this by sending out an email a week or two before you leave with the dates you’ll be out of office or raising it in conversation. Try something like, “I really wanted to make sure to get this project to you ahead of schedule since I’ll be away the following week. If you have any questions, please let me know by X date, as I won’t be checking my email while I’m gone.”
Secondly, you’ll want to establish a chain of command for when you’re away. This is something you can work out with your team and supervisor. Remember, the more you empower others to act on your behalf while you’re OOO, the less likely they’ll be to bother you while you’re away.
What should be in the body of your email
Okay, let’s get to the actual out-of-office reply. Brevity is key. You’ll want to include a friendly greeting in your email so it doesn’t seem like too much of an automated response. (No one wants to feel like their email reached a bot or, worse, bounced back.)
The second line in your out-of-office reply should mention the dates you’ll be out-of-office. It should also reference how often you’ll be checking your email. Even if you can’t help but check in while you’re on vacation, saying you “won’t be reachable by email” or that you will “be checking email only once a day” informs others they shouldn’t expect a response from you.
Finally, the last sentence in your OOO email should reference another point of contact. If it’s an urgent matter, you’ll put the writer at ease by letting them know there’s someone else they can turn to.
Have a second-in-command to do the filtering
By now you’ve let your coworkers know you’ll be away. You will also have established a chain of command. The last part of your email indicates who will filter through any urgent correspondence. Unfortunately, there may be a truly urgent matter that requires you to be looped in or notified. If that’s the case, you’ll want to give a colleague the information they need to reach you directly by phone.
Finally, remember to turn off your email notifications. It’ll help you enjoy your time away and let you be fully present. And if you really, really must work while on vacay, here’s how to make it manageable. Go forth and chill!