Your flights are booked. Your suitcase is packed. And your Airbnb hosts can't wait to greet you. Now you just have to mentally prepare yourself (and your coworkers) for vacation mode. You’ve been working hard and now it’s time to knock off for a while and recharge your batteries. But for your getaway to truly get you away from the office, you have to do a little prep work first.
Have “the talk” with your co-workers
Whether it’s a face-to-face or digital discussion, make sure your colleagues know you’re going to be out of the office. Be explicit about the fact that you’re on vacation too — not simply not in the building. Tell them you should only be contacted for real emergencies, which doesn’t include questions like “Have you seen my stapler?”
Leave a plan, not a mess
Help your co-workers out by leaving a contingency plan. You don’t have to draft up some complex legal document, just have a written list of your ongoing projects and who to contact about them while you’re gone. Most importantly, get everything in a good place before you’re out. That way you won’t be leaving others in the lurch, and you won't have to scramble when you come back from vacation.
Draft the perfect out-of-office reply
And now it’s time for that definitive moment: writing your vacation responder email so people know you’re unavailable. Crafting your reply may feel daunting because it represents you for the length of your trip. But you really just need to remember a few basic principles, and with our help, you’ll ace that balance of stern yet friendly.
Take a look at a few common pitfalls and our tips for how to avoid them.
- Revealing WAY too many details. Here’s an example of what not to do:
OOO EMAIL 1
Subject Line: For your reading pleasure, I’ll be OOO this week.
I’m currently knee-deep in the country’s finest white quartz sand on Siesta Beach in Florida. I’m staying at the Marriott located at 1234 Smith St. in room number 405 from 3:00 p.m., June 6 to 12:00 p.m., June 10. It’s a mid-sized hotel with great amenities including a well-stocked snack bar and ocean views. If I’m not surfing the glassy waves, I’ll probably be in the tiki hut sipping a frosty Piña Colada or some other tropical mixed drink.
Believe it or not, people don’t need to know every aspect of your trip. You can tell them where you’re going, but they really don’t need to know your itinerary or the hotel and room you’re staying in. Discretion does two things: it keeps the email short and scannable so your colleagues can quickly move on to asking someone else, and it protects you from unwelcome calls to your room or other methods of communication.
- Offering an insane amount of ways to reach you. Don’t be like Amanda:
OOO EMAIL 2
Subject Line: Hi there, I’m OOO. But no biggie.
Although I’m miles away on top of a mountain, I’ve made sure I’m reachable through an unwieldy amount of options. You can contact me any time via text, phone call, instant message, email, fax, snail mail… or heck — smoke signal!
Hope to hear from you,
This one is important. First of all, you probably don’t want anyone to reach you, but as previously mentioned, if there’s an emergency (and only if), they should have a way to reach you. Reiterate your own OOO boundaries and tell people to email, call or carrier pigeon you only in the most dire of situations. Bottom line: When you give co-workers too many avenues, it signals that you’re really not on vacation at all, and that in reality you’d rather be working. Which, of course, is not the case, right?
- Sounding braggy or unempathetic. Please, stay away from anything that resembles this:
OOO EMAIL 3
Subject Line: Guess what? I’m OOO, LOL!
What’s up work buds!?
Sorry, I can’t really hear you all the way from the beach. Turns out it’s kinda hard to answer emails with a margarita in one hand and a taco in the other. LOL, don’t be jealous. ;) See ya soon-ish.
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean everyone else is, too. So try not to rub it in and refrain from excessive “woo hoos!” It also doesn’t hurt to open your email with a “thank you” to politely disarm your co-workers before reminding them that you’re gone.
Once you’re on vacation, stay on vacation
You’ve earned your time off, so enjoy it! Focus on scheduling a bunch of fun activities to keep you busy and your mind off work. If you have too much hotel time, you may feel tempted to check your email. But we understand it may cause more stress to be 100% disconnected for days at a time. So if you feel the need to work, then hold yourself to a limit (like 30 minutes) in the morning or at night. That way it won’t interrupt the flow of your vacation days and you can still stay up-to-date and clear your inbox.
Make your re-entry into work easier
Returning to the office can be hard after you’ve just spent a care-free week swapping your work clothes for swim trunks or ski pants. If you can, give yourself a buffer day before going back. This will help you unpack both your bags and your emotions after a great trip. Also, see if your boss or colleague can send you a list of to-dos or ongoing projects a day or so before returning. That way you can mentally prepare yourself to jump right back in with no surprises.
Maybe most importantly, bring a little piece of your vacation back into your day-to-day life. No, we’re not talking about a shark tooth necklace — just remember some of the things that made your trip so much fun and try slipping them into your weekdays. Maybe you can pioneer “bermuda shorts friday” or start bringing more exotic lunches to work.
Hopefully this guide will help you prepare for your next vacay and get the most out of your hard-earned time away from work. If you have anything else to add or want to share your own out-of-office story, tell us in the comments below!