Labor Day Weekend is nearly here, summer’s last hurrah! A final barbecue, last weekend at the pool and, most glamorous of all, deciding what to write in your out-of-office reply.
But how best to approach the drafting of this automated message? One of my favorite stories on the topic is The Art of the Out-of-Office Reply, by Emily Gould. It’s a beautiful look at what we’re truly saying when we set a vacation auto-reply on our email.
On the one hand, we’d all love to fully detach from the office and free our minds to wander. But with that sometimes comes a nagging sense of dread as our inbox fills with unread notes from colleagues: If I’m too unavailable, will I be … forgotten? Will people think I’m unreliable? Or worse, will I be exposed as simply redundant and unnecessary?
There are forces working against us, too. According to a study this year from time-off advocacy group Project: Time Off, nearly a quarter of people said “guilt” discourages them from taking time off work in the first place. And 43 percent said the “mountain of work they would return to” stops them. Even when we do take a vacation, having phones nearby is inhibiting our ability to relax and recharge. The mere presence of a phone “reduces available cognitive capacity,” causing “smartphone-induced ‘brain drain,’” according to a study published in April in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.
So what’s a vacationer to do?
One approach is to under-promise and over-deliver on your reply time. A colleague of mine nailed this in a recent reply:
“I’m out of the office. That probably means I’ll see and respond to your email (because let’s be real, it’s 2017), but I might be slower than usual.”
Even better: If you want to truly unplug, own it and don’t apologize. And you should unplug! Studies have shown unplugging can improve your job performance and overall life satisfaction.
“I am currently on vacation and not accepting any emails about anything,” Ms. Ortberg wrote in one out-of-office autoreply, as Ms. Gould reported in her story. “I’m not planning on reading any old emails when I get back, either, because that feels antithetical to the vacation experience.”