Out of It

By Robert Goldman

July 4, 2019 5 min read

Let's face it: You love your job so much that the idea of taking a vacation is totally ridiculous.

Why would you exchange all that invigorating stress for lazing around a talcum-powder white beach with a cold margarita? You'd have to be crazy!

Well, you are crazy, and that explains why you will be taking a vacation, like it or not.

If you think seeing yourself in a bathing suit is the worst part of planning a vacation, you're not even close. The real pain comes before you even pack a bag.

It's writing your out-of-office message.

Author Alison Green recognizes the problem, which is probably why she wrote "How to Write an Out-of-Office Message," a recent post on The Cut website.

Before she gets positive and helpful, Green describes the kind of messages you want to avoid — like out-of-office messages that give too much information.

"We don't need to know that you're out for a day of medical testing," she writes, incorrectly. We absolutely need to know the doctor's name, the complete test results and a full diagnosis of what the doctor thinks is wrong with you. (We have to know if what we think is wrong with you really is.)

While some people believe they demonstrate how important they are by "listing a dozen people to contact for various things in the person's absence," Green considers it a mistake. Especially since anyone who needs to catch up on your doings need only contact one person — the bartender at the Kit Kat Klub.

(If you do list one person who will be covering everything you do and that person actually works in your office, watch out. That person will be spending every moment you're gone trying to take your job.)

Another mistake is to write a message suggesting that you will be having fun while you are away. I agree. It suggests you don't love your job. Try something like, "Paris will be OK, I guess, but every bite of foie gras will taste like dust when I think of what I'm missing from the break room snack machines."

To write a good out-of-office message, you will want to "explain that you're out, when you'll be back, and how reachable you are (if at all)." You're allowed to say, "I won't be checking email," but why bother? Everyone knows that you don't check email when you're actually in the office.

You also don't need to include "overly personal information, like that you're out sick with an allergic reaction or finalizing your divorce papers." Of course, if you're out sick because you have an allergic reaction to your spouse, this is information we definitely need.

If you're traveling for business, "you might want to ensure that people know you'll be harder to reach and that your responses will be slower." The example used starts with, "I'm currently attending the Tofu Marketers' Annual Conference." This is an email no one needs to send. Who in their right mind would miss a minute of the Tofu Marketers' Conference, especially the keynote "The Final Frontier: Tofu in Space"?

You are advised to avoid humor in your message. I agree. I work very hard to keep humor out of this column and usually succeed.

"Remember to turn off your message when you're back" is Green's final advice.

If the out-of-office message continues after your due date, "you're going to look disorganized (or they're going to worry that you never returned and something terrible has happened)."

The idea that your co-workers are concerned with your survival is a lovely thought, but don't count on it. They spend their days trying to figure out how to get rid of you. Even if your colleagues do not hold lethal thoughts, it is unlikely they will see your absence as a negative — for you or for them.

They know that not returning would be the best thing that ever happened to you. If it takes being eaten by a parade of anteaters, they know it would definitely make you really happy. And the anteaters will be thrilled.

Personally, I recommend you leave the out-of-office message in place for as long as you're employed. Think how much better your job will be without phone calls, emails or invitations to meetings. That's what would happen if everyone thought you couldn't be reached and didn't even try to.

Why, it would be like a vacation, except you didn't have to see how you looked in a bathing suit.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at creators.com.

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