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A Great Vacation Starts with the Right Out-of-office Message

The season of good cheer is upon us and you can feel the anticipation in the air. Most of us will be taking at least some vacation, and we all want to get the most out of our time away. So before you re-post your standard out-of-office reply, stop and ask yourself: will the way you’ve written the message really help you do just that?

The root of that question, as pointed out in this New York Times article, is that taking vacation can be a bit emotionally conflicting.

After all, most of us long to fully detach while we’re away and we know it’s the healthier and more restorative thing to do. Yet we’re concerned that actually doing so might appear reckless or irresponsible to our clients and colleagues.

Because of this, typical out-of-office replies will often split the difference between our hopes and fears and say something like: “I’m out of the office and can be reached but if you need assistance right away, please contact x person.”

There’s just one problem with this approach: you’ve now obligated yourself to regularly check your email the whole time you’re out.

If that’s truly what you intend, great. But if not, you may want to take a deep breath and try this: “I am currently on vacation and not accepting emails. Please contact x for any issues while I’m away.” This approach is refreshingly honest and clear. And as long as you’re comfortable with the competence and availability of your back-up contact, you shouldn’t feel funny or guilty about going this route at all.

On the other hand, there may be times where you’re so embedded in a project that you truly need to stay connected while you’re out. If that’s the case, say so clearly with a message like this: “I’m away but will be checking messages regularly, so don’t hesitate to contact me directly at any time.” Saying anything less than this may cause people to try to respect your time away and work around you, which in this case could create problems.

It all boils down to honestly assessing your situation, deciding what degree of contact is appropriate, and then stating your intention clearly and succinctly. 

But the bottom line is, unplug as much as you possibly can. You’ll get more benefit from your time away and return relaxed, recharged and ready to take on the New Year with extra energy.

Here’s wishing each and every one of you the fun and joyous holiday you truly deserve!