Out-of-office, vacation time!

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Available or unavailable?

A lot of people use an automatic response during their vacation. However, did you ever think about closing your account on Whats-app, Slack, Twitter, LinkedIn, Basecamp or any other account you got online during your vacation? In the current era, people are reachable on way more then only their email and where email has the classic automatic response, a lot of other social media channels do not have this yet. Therefore, before we get in to the actual subject Out-of-office, you have to ask yourself is: ‘How available I am during my vacation?’.

Often people will answer this question by saying: ‘I check my email less regular’, ‘I do not always have access to Wi-Fi’ or ‘If it’s urgent I will respond as soon as possible’. Although this sounds logic, it’s not the best idea because when people are in a hurry, they need help at that actual moment and when they are not in a hurry they can wait until you are back at work. Besides, there is no such thing as ‘It just takes five minutes to check my email’ because after checking your email, your mind will not stop thinking about the emails as soon as you close your inbox.

Therefore you have to decide for yourself

  • I check my email once a day; I will respond as soon as possible.
  • I am really away; I don’t see anything, I give people permission to make a decision to solve the issue themselves.
  • I am really away; somebody else at the office oversees my mailbox and sends me a message over Whats-app when it’s urgent.

Whatever way you decide, make sure to use your phone as less as possible. You probably hear this very often but every notification you get on your phone can be a reminder of the work that is waiting for you at home. Put away your phone and use a watch, alarm clock, e-reader, book or magazine instead.


Now back to the real subject. Read the five bullet points below and learn how to organize your mailbox before you go on vacation, so you can go back to work without feeling stressed right away? Are you interested in reading a more detailed description? Scroll down for the more extended version of the five steps below.

  1. Install an Out-of-office notification or even better the ‘Email Rules’ in Microsoft Outlook or ‘Email Filter’ in Gmail.
  2. Label your emails to create an organized inbox with all your
    messages sorted by subject.
  3. Mention who is there to help until you’re back from vacation.
  4. Ask colleagues to make a discussion points list.
  5. Mention to your contact that their email will be deleted during your vacation.

Everyone knows that it can take a day to actually go back to work. That is why it might be a good idea to leave the Out-of-office response on at your first day back at work. Besides, this also gives you the time to go over the discussion points list your colleagues made for you.

Hopefully with a few changes and a bit of effort before you leave, you will be able to go back to work without jumping back in to stress modus. Good luck and stay posted for more updates on Talent & Balance. In the meantime, enjoy your vacation!


1)            Install an Out-of-office, email Rules or email Filters

The Out-of-office setting makes sure that everyone who sends you an email will receive one automatic pre-installed message. When you choose to install an Rules or Filter it’s possible to specify the automatic response based on the email address, words in the email, domain name or the subject line. This does mean that people get an automatic response every time they send you an email. However, this way you can create a specific Out-of-office message for different people, groups or subjects. For some people you might want to use a funny GIF, where for others an official tone-of-voice is more appropriate.

2)            Label it

If you decide you want to read emails during your vacation, it’s useful to know which ones are the most urgent. Use Folders & Rules (Outlook and Mac Mail) or Labels & Filters (Gmail) to create an organized inbox with categorised emails, so you don’t have a big pile of e-mails when you come back to work.

3)            Who is there to help me?

As mentioned before, it’s very important to make the automatic response specific. People like to know when you are back, so definitely don’t forget to put that in your automatic response. Do you offer your contacts to get help or information from one of your colleagues? Make sure you mention the name and contact information of the person who’s there to help your contacts.

4)            Discussion points list

Many email systems have the option to make a different Out-of-office message for colleagues but it’s better to the agreement with your colleagues not to email each other at all. Suggest to make a discussion points list with everything that comes to mind and after you are back you can take the time to go over all the points.

5)            This email will be deleted

Although not everybody will feel comfortable to do this, it is possible to tell your contacts that all the messages that are sent during your vacation will be deleted. Especially if you give your contacts the option to ask somebody else for help, this is a good option because a lot of subjects will not be relevant anymore by the time you come back. To make this a bit less drastic, it’s also possible to apply this strategy to certain kind of contact or just your colleagues.

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