Most bosses agree that employees who take time away from the office are more productive, but over 50% of people don’t take their available PTO – and out of those that do, 66% report still working while away.
It turns out it’s much easier to unplug with a little prep. Getting the most out of your time away from your office often starts at your desk.
Whether you’re going on a business trip, a family vacation, or taking time off to tend to personal matters, you can get a lot more done out of the office by following an out of office checklist as your going-away guide. Here’s everything to cover before heading out.
Your out of office checklist
Get it on the calendar. Maybe you have a shared calendar your team has access to, or maybe your group uses a rolling markerboard to track days off. Whatever you use, make sure it’s updated with your out-of-office dates so that no one is surprised.
Communicate with coworkers. Communicate with your team members – especially supervisors and direct reports – about anything someone else will need to handle or keep an eye on while you’re away. You’ll worry far less when you and your team are on the same page about what the out-of-office expectations are.
Finish up outstanding projects or at least get to a stopping point. If you can’t completely close out a project, make sure to communicate with any stakeholders about progress or adjusted due dates and pass off the remaining tasks if possible.
Consider the “just in case” options. Should you pack your laptop and charger? Should you keep your work email notifications live on your phone? You know your business needs best, so plan for whatever will give you the greatest peace of mind if an emergency does happen to pop up.
Set your out of office messages. One of the most crucial steps to peace of mind before heading out of the office is to set up a good out of office message. An automated out-of-office email response tells anyone trying to get in touch with you that you aren’t getting their message right away or that they might not hear back from you immediately.
What if it’s an unexpected absence?
Just because you can’t plan in advance for every time you’ll be out of the office doesn’t mean that you need to stress if an unexpected need for time away comes up. Here are some things you can do ahead of time and have on standby if you’re called away unexpectedly.
- Keep a status or progress sheet. A log of all your current projects – and what stage they’re in – will help you stay on track every day but will also help to keep others in the loop if you’re away suddenly.
- Forward your office phone and work email to your personal phone. For some people, this is business as usual, but some people like to keep their work and personal lives very separate. If you’re concerned about being prepared and unstressed during an unexpected absence, having your work contact methods synced with your personal phone can help. You can always turn these notifications off until they’re needed.
- Build good team relationships. When you trust your team, you worry less when you’re away because you know that everyone is on the same page. One way to ensure that you’ll have some help if you need to be out of the office unexpectedly? Make sure you pitch in to help your coworkers as much as you can when things come up for them, too.
Writing the Best Vacation Out of Office Message
No matter what reason you need to be away from work, writing an out of office message is one of the most important steps on our out of office checklist. Here are some things to include when writing the perfect holiday out of office message.
Note the dates. This might seem obvious, but some people will write hurried auto email responses that only say, ‘I’m out of the office.’ Noting when you’re set to return is helpful for anyone who needs to follow up with you.
Be clear about availability. Will you be available to answer emails during the evenings? Will you be completely unavailable to answer calls or emails? Make sure your email makes note of whether or not you’ll return emails and when, whether it’s from the road or when you return.
Don’t include unnecessary details. Whether you’re on vacation or nursing your child back to health, you don’t need to go into extreme detail about your absence. The dates of your absence and when someone can expect to hear back is all you need.
List an alternative contact. If there’s someone else who can cover issues that arise in your absence, such as an assistant or coworker, list their contact info in your outgoing out of office email – just make sure they know about it!
Consider an emergency number. Chances are any urgent issues that come up while you’re away can be handled by your team or other coworkers. But if there’s a big client you’re waiting to hear back from or a project deadline coming up that needs addressing, consider adding a ‘just in case’ phone number.
Cover both phone and email. Make sure you’ve created out of office messages for any channel people might try to contact you on, including phone and email.
Make sure your message is set for all audiences. Ensure your out of office replies are set to go to both outside contacts and internal senders. No matter who the reply will go to, make sure to keep it professional. Even if you have a close, friendly relationship with coworkers, you want to keep your business communications as professional as possible.
Examples of a Good Out of Office Message
If you’re struggling with what to include in your automated response, here are some professional out-of-office message examples to try.
A good out-of-office message for your email lets people know you’re not in the office or adhering to a traditional email schedule. The most important information to include is the dates of your absence and who, if anyone, should be contacted if an urgent matter comes up.
- Hi, Thanks for your email. I’m out of the office and will be back at [date]. During this time, I’ll have limited access to my email. For immediate assistance, please contact me on my cell phone at [your cell phone number]. Best, [your name]
- I will be out of the office starting [date] through [date]. If you need immediate assistance during my absence, please contact [name] at [email]. Otherwise, I will respond to your emails as soon as possible upon my return. Regards, [your name]
- Thanks for your email. I'm out of the office from [date] to [date]. I will respond to your email as soon as I'm back. Thanks! [your name]
If you need to leave an out-of-office phone message, change your outgoing voice message to note when you’ll be gone, when you plan to be back, and if the caller should expect a call back or reach out to someone else.
- Hi, you’ve reached [your name]. I’ll be out of the office from [day, date] until [day, date]. Please leave a message and I’ll return your call as soon as I’m back. Thanks for calling.
- You have reached [name]. I’ll be out of the office from [day, date] until [day, date]. If you want to leave a message, I’ll call you when I return. If you need immediate assistance, please contact [name of contact] at [number or email address].
Customizing your exact message to fit your company voice and brand is recommended, especially if you communicate with a lot of off-site clients or 3rd-party clients. Ultimately, keep all your out of office messages – from email to voicemail – concise, friendly, and professional.
Nobody wants to be panicked during their time away about what’s piling up at their desk. Whether you’re heading out on a trip, recovering from surgery, pulling off a relocation, or taking time off to relax and reset, you can truly focus on your day to day by setting yourself up for out of office success before you leave with some time dedicated to your out of office checklist.
How do you prepare for being out of office? Let us know on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. And, as always, feel free to reach out with any questions or comments by sending us an email. Larry loves hearing from you!
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