Do your co-workers email you with timely requests even when you’re on vacation?
If so, you might be writing your out-of-office email wrong, says Brandon Smith, a therapist and career coach known as The Workplace Therapist.
Generic messages like, “I’ll be OOO until [insert date] with limited access to email” can be easy to shrug off.
“When I see that, I assume they are at home and took a day to clean their apartment,” Smith says.
Instead, include a personal detail. This can set a stronger boundary and help you elicit more guilt from whoever dares cross it.
‘You’re a jerk if you trample on that’
Getting personal doesn’t mean your message has to be long or even divulge private information.
If you’re going on a family trip, Smith suggests the following format:
“I’m going to be on a family vacation on [insert dates]. If you need immediate assistance please contact [information of colleague]”
Reading that, someone has to decide that their query is more important than your time with your family. “You’re a jerk if you trample on that,” Smith says.
When I see that, I assume they are at home and took a day to clean their apartment.
The Workplace Therapist
‘I was the problem because I took the call’
Of course, there will always be colleagues who don’t respect your OOO status. In those cases, when possible, you have to stick to your hours even more diligently.
Smith has a few tips for executing vacation boundaries:
- Don’t pick up the call, no matter how “quick” you think it will be. “I’ve had to take calls while waiting in line for Space Mountain,” Smith says. “Those are few and far between, but in those examples I was the problem because I took the call.”
- Don’t send emails in the morning. Many of us check our inbox mere seconds after waking up. On vacation, try not to. Even if you do, don’t respond to the emails. “When people see you’re emailing then it’s like your boundaries aren’t real,” Smith says.
- Before leaving, let everyone know, repeatedly, that you’ll be unavailable. “Remind folks, ‘my vacation is going to be in three weeks,’ then ‘my vacation is going to be in two weeks,’ up until you leave,” Smith says. This gives colleagues and management plenty of time to prepare for your departure. And, no one can act blindsided by your absence.
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