It’s not as simple as putting an auto-responder on your email, but that’s one step you can take. You deserve time off, so make sure to prep for OOO time and holidays accordingly. Make things easier on yourself.
You know the feeling, when you’ve said you’re “off,” but then you receive an email/Slack/text calling your attention away. That pang of guilt for missing work, but also, dang it, I’m supposed to be present with my loved ones! Well this post has some helpful tips to get you prepared in advance to be OOO. It’s important to still make sure to take care of your customers and keep them happy.
1. Add key dates to your email signature: Yes, your signature, not JUST your auto-responder, if you have one. Add it well in advance of your days off, if possible, to prep clients for what to expect. You can add deadlines for ordering/shipping, your OOO dates, or any crucial dates. Then your customers have easy access to those key dates, and as you exchange emails ahead of time they’re reminded.
2. Prep your team or contractors, or automate things: It’s not only important to tell them the dates that you’ll be out, but also to prep them for what to do while you’re gone! In some cases, this means relying on (or creating) SOPs for them to follow to keep the needle moving forward. Systems like ClickUp, Notion, or others make this easy and allow you to give your team outlined steps to follow. Or if you choose to simply have them pause their services, make sure that’s clear as well.
If you don’t have a team, that’s okay too! Make sure to automate as much as you can so that things are running and set up to flow without you. Schedule emails, social posts, Pinterest pins, etc. to ensure the business runs even while you’re enjoying time away from work.
3. Provide ways for your customers to help themselves while you’re out: In your auto-responder message, if you choose to have one, or your email signature, send them resources! Link to a blog post, FAQ page, etc. that you’ve written to address their needs and most frequently asked questions. That way they can explore some possible answers to their questions, and you’re helping them even while you’re out relaxing.
4. Set your personal and work boundaries: Answer some questions and intentions for yourself like,
Make those boundaries and intentions clear ahead of time. We’re all tempted to fall into old habits and likely be bad time managers when in the moment. Believe me, I’m the queen of “10 more minutes” that can easily turn into an hour or more.
Your business is entirely up to you. Whether you want to partially or fully step away during your time off, it’s your choice.
5. If you’re a service-based business, email clients scheduled on each end of your OOO time: If you’d like to communicate and set expectations ahead of time for clients, it never hurts to send a quick email! That way if they have questions about your services or their project while you’re out, they know when they can expect to hear a reply. They’re also prepped when you’ll be delivering their project enough in advance and you’ve anticipated their questions or concerns. Of course, communicate in advance if your OOO time will impact the delivery of their project or service. Don’t just step out of office and leave them hanging, hoping they won’t contact you.
Also for you service-based businesses that use an online meeting scheduler, make sure to sync your calendar! Block off our OOO time as “busy” on your Google or work calendar, whichever calendar syncs with your availability. This prevents someone from unknowingly booking a meeting or service with you on a day that you’re out. (If you don’t use a scheduler like Calendly, Acuity, or similar, skip this note.)
6. If you’re a product-based business, make sure you’ve set up your shop/store while you’re out: Whether you decide to close the shop for orders, or simply have a team that takes care of things while you’re out, plan accordingly. Have an email list? You can also have a reminder note in one of your emails or newsletters. If you want to temporarily close your ordering/shipping system, turn it off on the backend. You don’t want to receive any surprise orders while you’re out!
7. Social media post or video: This one is optional of course, as are all of these, and flexible based on how you run your business. If you get a lot of business via social media though, it’s a good idea to post an OOO message. I even mention that I won’t be responding to any work-related DMs while I’m out. I let them know to contact me again once I’m back in the office. Customize this to whatever works for your business, but social is a great place to communicate that you’re unreachable.
8. Emergency contact method: Tell your team or contractors what your preferred method of contact is, in case of an emergency. Go over what constitutes an emergency, and what doesn’t. Make sure they have a plan of action to handle things that are urgent but NOT an emergency! That way you can rest assured on your time off that if you don’t get messages, all is going smoothly.
9. Let go, and trust the system you’ve set up: Seriously, if you’ve done everything you can to set your business up as best you can, just relax. Trust in your team or whoever is handling things while you’re out. Or if you’re a solopreneur and don’t have a team working for you while you’re out…relax just as much! You’ve done everything you can to prep people to understand when you’re out of the office, you’re unreachable. Everyone needs to step away sometimes, and you have the right to as well. You work hard, so rest hard too! No one will fault you for that.
Now, this is a lot of advice. It’s a lot to digest. But take whatever works for you, and I hope this helps you prep for OOO time and holidays!