How to Craft a Better Out-of-Office Message

How to Achieve Work/Life Balance

Out of Office Message

If you want to restore more balance to your life, you'll need to take an occasional day off. And when you do, it's a good idea to set an out-of-office (OOO) message on your email.

"We all need time to unplug and recharge," author Michelle Gielan writes in an article for the Harvard Business Review. "Research shows that disconnecting -- especially from email -- can make us significantly less stressed and more productive. And yet, many of us are often hesitant to take the first step -- putting up an appropriate OOO message that sets clear boundaries for our time off."

According to Gielan, some people are afraid to set an OOO message because they worry doing so will make them appear lazy, or cause them to miss out on opportunities. But in fact, an OOO message can have the opposite effect -- if you write it correctly.

Instead of a standard OOO, try a more personal approach. "Share a meaningful piece of information that can be a conversation starter next time you speak to the person," Gielan advises. "Why are you taking time away from the office? What are you learning at a conference that will help you serve your clients better? Where are you going on vacation, and what's one small thing you're looking forward to doing while there?"

Here's an example: "Hi, I'm celebrating 5 years of marriage, as well as enjoying summer vacation with our 4-year-old and 4-month-old. In honor of such a momentous holiday, I will not be checking email until [date]. If you need anything urgently, please contact my wonderful assistant Jenny at [email]."

And here's another: "Hi, I am attending a conference with fellow health-care account managers in Atlanta this week with the hopes of bringing back tools that will make business even better for my clients. I will have limited access to email during this time. If you need immediate assistance before Monday, please contact [colleague]."

"These kinds of notes can be great conversation starters, as people back at the office ask you about the conference or your vacation and get to know you as a well-rounded human, rather than merely a coworker," notes Gielan, who says a personal OOO message affords you the best of both worlds: time away from email and deeper connections with your network when you return.

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