Taking time away from work to allow your body, mind and soul to recharge is an extremely important component of time management and productivity. By taking time away from work, I’m not just talking about physically; I’m also talking about mentally. This means not thinking about work and most definitely not checking emails during your holiday.

But many people have FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – or anxiety about returning to work even more behind on emails, so what do they do while they’re off from work? They check email, thinking they might be staying ahead or even getting ahead. While in the moment it might feel like you’re making some progress because you’re keeping the number of unread emails in your inbox at a plateau while you’re supposed to be on vacation, in reality, your self-sabotaging your future productivity levels by not allowing your brain to take a rest.

In my fourth book, The Great Escape: A Vacation Planner for Busy People Who Want to Take a Real Break from Work & Life, I share a step-by-step process for preparing to leave work behind for a vacation or staycation.

But let’s say you’re happening upon this blog either the day before or maybe even during your vacation. You don’t have that prep time anymore, so is there anything you can do right this moment?

Why, yes there is.

You can utilize a productive and professional out of office message.

Turning on this feature in your email system will give yourself permission to duck out of your inbox for at least a few days. Everyone who emails you will know you won’t respond right away. You’re off the hook. You can relax!

A productive and professional out of office message should contain five components: 

  1. Your level of email access: limited or not at all.
  2. How long you’ll be out of the office.
  3. Who else can be contacted if someone needs assistance before then.
  4. If you would like to be contacted a different way while you’re out of the office, give those instructions.
  5. When the recipient can expect you to respond.

The length of time away that warrants an out of office message depends on your company’s response time policies. If you’re in Public Relations and work for a company that expects your response to be within the hour, your out of office response should be in place if you’ll be gone longer than that. If you normally receive a heavy load of incoming email throughout the day, consider using an out of office response for any absence longer than half a day so that you’re relieved of the pressure of trying to catch up on the same day. For most professions, an out of office message is expected if you’ll be out for the entire work day or longer.

Common mistakes in out of office messages include: 

*Not stating how long you’ll be out of the office or when a response can be expected.

*Not including a way for the recipient to get some type of assistance or information while they’re waiting for your response.

*Not including a signature with your name and work details. (Not everyone who emails you is on familiar terms with you and might not know exactly who you are when your auto-responder arrives in their inbox.)

If you’re nervous about doing this, consider trying this on or near national holidays, when most Americans will have the day (or days) off and shouldn’t be working (which means you’re most definitely excused from working, too, and shouldn’t feel pressured to!). Consider using your out of office message for Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr Day, Presidents’ Day…you get the picture.

Utilize that productive and professional out of office responder, take that well-deserved break, and recharge yourself!

About Helene Segura, M.A. Ed., CPO®

As The Inefficiency Assassin™, Time Management Fixer Helene Segura empowers professionals on the go with the tools to slay lost time. Personal inefficiency at work leads to increased stress levels, lower morale, higher absenteeism, more turnover – and rising spending on employee health care and hiring. Why not improve productivity, decrease stress levels, and increase profits instead? The author of four books – two of which were Amazon best-sellers – Helene Segura has been the featured organization expert in more than 200 media interviews. She has coached hundreds of clients to productivity success and performance improvement by applying neuroscience and behavioral modification techniques to wipe out destructive, time-wasting habits. Helene turns time management on its head by sharing both client case studies and pop culture examples to teach her mind-bending framework for decreasing interruptions, distractions and procrastination so that companies can spend more time generating revenue.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.