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5 things to do before going out of office

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3 min read

5 things to do before going out of office

Make your return to work easier—and your vacation more enjoyable

By Justin Pot · March 30, 2021
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Vacations shouldn't be stressful. This seems obvious, but a Zapier survey discovered that the dread involved with coming back from vacation can be crippling. 

The most common things people dread are getting back into a routine and catching up on administrative work. The good news: you can do something about that before going out of office, so that things are less overwhelming when you return. 

Setting yourself up for success is important, but don't forget about making sure your coworkers have everything they need too. Here are tips for how to prepare for a longer time away from work, so that things run smoothly while you're away.

Make an OOO document

One of the hardest things about coming back to work after a vacation is figuring out what is and isn't worth your attention. There's going to be a flood of emails, Slack threads, and documents to sort through. Where should you get started? 

Zapier's content teams use out-of-office documents for exactly this reason. Before you go offline, create a document for your coworkers to point out the most important things to catch up on. For us, this means important chat threads, notes and recordings from key meetings, and in most cases, adorable dog photos. The specifics don't matter—the important thing is that your team knows they should leave you a note anytime they'd otherwise just tell you about something. 

An OOO doc in a Google Doc with a list of things missed and who reported them

It doesn't have to be complicated—we typically make Google Doc tables with a few columns. People mention what needs attention, link to it if necessary, and add a few notes about why it's important. I can say from experience that this makes coming back from vacation a lot less overwhelming. 

Set your calendar to OOO

Are there a bunch of meetings scheduled while you're going to be offline? Are you afraid of other people adding even more meetings to that time? I recently discovered Google Calendar's out-of-office feature, which lets you block out the time you'll be away and declines every meeting scheduled during that time. 

Setting up an out of office event in Google Calendar

This saves you from having to manually decline those meetings you'll miss, but it gets better: the out-of-office feature will also automatically block any future requests people make of you during that time. Outlook offers a similar feature

It's a simple thing, but the time saved can really add up. And you can use Zapier to make things happen in other apps when you have an OOO event, like changing your Slack status or automatically sending a message to let people know when you'll be away. Give it a spin. 

Set up an email autoresponder

People are going to email you while you're away, and most of those emails won't be important. Yes, it's important to email people back, but looking at work emails during a vacation is a Bad Time. So let people know you're away. 

Turning the vacation responder on in Gmail

It's easy to set up an out-of-office email in Gmail or Outlook. Just remember to include a few key things:

  • When you'll get back. 

  • Who people should contact for pressing issues in the meantime.

  • Whether you plan on going through all emails when you get back, or if you're planning on doing Inbox Infinity and ignoring the backlog entirely. 

I'm sure you can think of a few more things to add. The point is to remember to actually do this, so that people who try to contact you know what's up.

While you're at it: don't forget about internal communication. I recommend changing your status in whatever team chat tool you use, explaining that you're away and ideally letting people know when you'll be back. 

Delay or delegate your recurring tasks

I use TickTick to keep track of my task list, and there are more than a few recurring ones. I pitch articles for syndication every week, for example, and try to follow up with everyone I'm collaborating on articles with. Obviously, if I'm out of office, I'm not going to be doing those things. That's why I try to either delegate or delay those tasks.

Some tasks need to get done regardless of whether I'm working. In those cases, I'll ask someone to take over for me. 

Some recurring tasks, though, can wait until I get back. I don't want those ones cluttering up my to-do list while I'm out, but I also don't want to delete recurring tasks. My solution: schedule them for a date after I get back. This means I don't come home to a mess of overdue recurring tasks.

Turn off any automations you don't need running

I've set up so many automations that don't need to be running while I'm out of office. For example: I have one that changes my Slack status every time there's a Google Calendar appointment. Leaving that turned on would wipe out the status I left informing people that I'm out of office, so I turn that one off before every vacation. 

Think about the automations you have running and whether they should be turned off while you're away. (And remember to turn them back on when you get back.)

Speaking of automations: my coworker Krystina, who is a charismatic genius, suggests some automations that help you catch up when you return from vacation. Take a look, and set some of them up—there's a non-zero chance it will make your return to work much less dreadful.

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Justin Pot picture

Justin Pot

Justin Pot is a staff writer at Zapier based in Hillsboro, Oregon. He loves technology, people, and nature, not necessarily in that order. You can follow Justin on Twitter: @jhpot. You don't have to. But you can.

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