Out of Office: Will be back in 5


Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

On Thursday, June 21 summer solstice occurred to the jubilation of many North American dwellers.  The advent of summer is the trigger for many people to start organising their summer holidays.  However, before heading out on that well-deserved vacation one always has to remember to create an out of office auto-reply.

Most email programs have functionality that allows you to send automatic replies while you are on your Medditerian vacation.    Typically out of office auto-replies contain the rudimentary: salutation, when you will be returning to office, pardon the delay in responding, etc.

I will be out of the office the week of [dates].  If you need to reach me, please text or call me at [phone #] and I will respond as soon as I am able.

The standard expectation is you will check all of your missed emails upon your return and respond accordingly.  Also, since most of us suffer from Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) we typically “check in” on office work while on holiday. This is madness!!!  According to the Pew Research Center “Some 34% of adults with a college education or more go online almost constantly (and 92% go online daily)”.  Recently a coworker returned from three-months of maternity leave and had to review several thousand emails upon her return. The expectation that we will delve into thousands of emails after returning from time away from work is absurd, time-consuming, daunting and unproductive.

Source: Pew Research Center

Out of Office Strategy

The strategy I think we should be practising is to disregard all emails while on leave and have all essential emails handled by a co-worker.  Upon returning to the office, only review the most recent critical emails.   If we don’t set the expectation that we will not be monitoring email while on vacation, you are training clients and co-workers to expect that you will.  The following is an out of office auto-reply that you can leverage that sets the correct expectation and limits:

I am currently on vacation and not accepting emails about anything.  I am not planning on reading any old emails when I get back, either, because that feels antithetical to the vacation experience.  If you have an urgent request while I am on vacation reach out to coworker@work.com otherwise send me an email upon my return with the subject line “Urgent/Important”.

Also, most out of office auto-replies are trite; you can get creative by creating an emoji auto response.  I used the following recently while vacationing in Jamaica.

👋 Associate,

😀 am 🔛🏝️,  ↪️🔛 June 4th without access to 📧.

😀 will respond once 😀return.

If 👉 have an urgent matter 📧 Mr. T.



Email etiquette is continuously evolving, and it’s up to us personally to determine if we leverage email to expedite our work or allow our email inboxes to mire us in a sea of unproductivity.

Leave us your comments below on your strategies for handling your email inbox after returning from vacation.

Featured Image by Neanderthal-Jam


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