You Need a Break - What Does Your Out-of-Office Message Say?

Taking a break is important. But email out-of-office messages often invite contact even when we are away.

You Need a Break - What Does Your Out-of-Office Message Say?

I see a lot of out-of-office messages along the lines of "I'm out of the office, but you can reach me on my mobile..'

I even saw one that said, "Unfortunately, I'm on holiday...".

We can feel as though we need to be on call 24/7 all year round; that we need or are expected to be contactable outside work hours and even on holiday.

I've had many a holiday where I realize I haven't relaxed because I've been checking work emails and got drawn into everything going on.

But, I know it's important for me to set boundaries between work and everything else and to take proper breaks.

I now disconnect from devices while I’m on holiday and make it clear I’m not contactable.

To support this, I often use the following out-of-office message:

"I'm on holiday and, to take care of my wellbeing, I won't be reading or responding to emails or calls. If you have an urgent query then please contact ... otherwise I will respond on my return."

This message tells people I am away and that I believe it's important to prioritize taking a break. It sets an expectation of when I will respond but also provides alternative contacts for more urgent issues.

I will usually let a handful of people know how to contact me if there is a genuine emergency, but people typically don't need to do this.

In the period running up to my holiday, I assess what I can reasonably complete before I leave, what could be delegated and what can wait for my return.

Few of us work in isolation and are surround by great people who can help. I find that there is also more scope for deferring or re-prioritizing work than I might otherwise assume.

I then make sure that I am not looking at emails while I am away and, rather than looking at them on the day before returning, I wait until I am back at work and prioritize what to review. That way, I'm not feeling stressed when I'm not working.

How do you set boundaries and make time for yourself?

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