Hi, I'm out of the office: How to stop work from ruining your weekend getaway

Your time off should be for you to enjoy, but it’s not always possible to ‘switch off’ from work during the weekend. Here are six tips for taking control of your personal time while you’re away – and setting boundaries for your colleagues, clients and bosses

Hi, I'm out of the office: How to stop work from ruining your weekend getaway


After what feels like forever, you’re finally getting time off for a well-deserved holiday. You’re looking forward to a couple of weeks of rest and relaxation, with no emails or text messages to reply to, no deadlines to meet, and no clients or colleagues to contact…

But minutes after touching down at your destination, your phone starts pinging, alerting you to text messages that you missed and new emails that need to be read – urgently. The rest of your holiday sees you holed up in your hotel room, sending countless emails to the folks at work, opening and reading attachments, entertaining queries from clients, and conducting meetings on Skype. In a word, you’re working.

Sound familiar? Like most people, you probably find it hard to switch off when you’re on vacation (or not stationed at your desk). It’s not that you don’t want to; it’s more like you can’t. And when you do return to work, you’re not only more stressed than ever. It also feels like you never left the place at all.

If you’re sick of having to give up your off-days for work, it’s time to set boundaries for your co-workers, bosses and clients without ruffling any feathers or disrupting the workflow, and, while you’re at it, stand up for your right to enjoy a little peace and quiet. Here are six ways to do it:

1. Don’t leave your team stranded

Schedule your vacation during a time when others are in the office. That way, you’re less likely to be bothered. If you’re a supervisor, try not to be away the same time as your Number Two. If you’re both on leave together, the junior members of your team will have no one to ask for advice or instructions and will probably resort to calling you for every little question that they have. If your Number Two is around to cover for you, you can put her in charge of running the show while you’re gone. Don’t have a deputy? Select someone on your team who’s trustworthy and dependable, and who’s familiar enough with your job scope to direct the rest of the team on her own.

2. Delegate, delegate, delegate

Ideally, you should not have any important work outstanding when it’s time to go on leave. But, as much as you try to get everything done before you go, you can’t really stop new problems and tasks from cropping up in your absence. To really enjoy your holiday, your best bet is to leave these urgent issues in the hands of your colleagues.

Before you go away, make a list of those parts of your job that may need your attention while you’re away, and then assign various members of your team to handle each one. So for instance, you can put Colleague A in charge of administrative matters; Colleague B can deal with any issues to do with clients; Colleague C can be in charge of inter-department issues, and so on. Make sure that everyone in the office knows whom to contact for help with specific queries while you’re gone.

3. Don’t connect with the office unless it’s urgent

Even if you’re not going on an overseas holiday, your bosses and co-workers should respect your time off. They should know not to contact you unless they need to speak with you urgently, and if they text or email you, they should also know not to expect a response from you unless it’s an emergency. You only get so many days off during the year; your personal time is precious so don’t be afraid to protect it.

4. Create a specific out-of-office message

Don’t just tell your email contacts when you’ll be away. Instead, write a concise and direct message, letting senders know whom to contact if they have an urgent request or need to get a hold of you immediately. If there’s someone else on your team who can answer email queries on your behalf, be sure to include that colleague’s name, email address and office phone number, too. Do not include your personal email address in the message or tell senders exactly where you’ll be – if you make yourself too available, people will, more often than not, take advantage of the fact. You want to be accessible, but only in emergency situations.

5. If you have to work during your holiday, allocate specific times for it

If your job requires you to check in on your team or with your boss every now and then while you’re away, or if there are certain issues or tasks that simply can’t wait until you get back, by all means, do what you have to do – just don’t spend your entire holiday on your laptop. Instead, tell your boss and co-workers that you’ll only be contactable for an hour in the morning, and perhaps an hour in the late afternoon, so if they have to talk to you, they can do it during those times. And be strict when it comes to enforcing this rule, otherwise, everyone will think that it’s fine to contact you at all hours of the day and night. 

6. Don’t bring a smartphone if you can help it

Unless you intend to use social media on your smartphone or the phone’s camera, you’re better off leaving the device at home. If you have your phone with you, you may be tempted to check your work email or text your co-workers. Leaving it at home gives you the chance to truly recharge and enjoy a proper break from work. Instead, bring a regular mobile phone to use in case you need to call home urgently, a digital camera for taking photos, and, if you need to check your personal email account, you can always visit an Internet café at your holiday destination. Too attached to your smartphone? Bring it with you, then, but promise yourself you’ll only check it at specific times during the day, and leave it in the hotel safe when you’re out sightseeing and doing THIS:

Cheers, and have a good break!