You are exhausted from putting in long hours at work but have finally reached that vacation time you scheduled months in advance. You set up your work email to say you’ll be away and who to contact instead.
It should be that simple, right?
But you know you will still have plenty of people who don’t take the hint and continue to try and reach you. The Wall Street Journal discussed this struggle of how you can actually enjoy your away time in peace and not feel guilty about it.
Part of the reason people do feel guilty about being out of the office is that American work culture is very team-centric. If you are thinking about yourself, it is often framed as being selfish. But this is your vacation time. If you can’t be selfish on your own time off, when can you?
So if you are looking for a good out-of-office email reply, perhaps the best advice you can learn is to not be apologetic about it.
Unless your workplace is really badly structured, they should have accounted for you being away and have someone else handling whatever you would have been working on.
Your company should not fall apart just because you are unavailable after giving everyone notice that that was going to be the case.
As far as automated replies that can help ease your worries, humor might be the key. You definitely want to make sure you know your audience well enough to pull it off, but a jokey message can convey your point while also relaying that whatever someone wants to reach you about can’t be so urgent that it requires immediate attention from you specifically.
Some find the freedom to express themselves in that way a bit liberating.
This strategy is common enough that Iceland’s tourism office recently made the news for their out-of-office emails written by horses. This is a service where actual horses walk across giant keyboards and the result becomes your out-of-office message.
It’s a humorous way to remind you to just enjoy your vacation and forget about work.
If even those tactics don’t succeed for you, you can also try turning off your email notifications while you are gone so you don’t get distracted from relaxing. And if you really need to set your mind at ease, allow yourself one daily peek at your inbox to confirm the world is not ending.
For more on what you can do to enjoy your time away from work without feeling guilty, read the Wall Street Journal article here.
Learn how to set up an out-of-office message in Microsoft Outlook in this short video.
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