We all need to take breaks to recharge, step away, and get re-centered and part of that break is ignoring your inbox. In this episode, I’m diving into the importance of an OOO or an Out of Office Email.

Business does not stop just because you aren’t in the office, but you deserve a real chance to pause and step away. I share my experiences of what I used to do versus what I do now when I’m incommunicado so that my clients and I are both aware of (and stick to!) boundaries and expectations. I walk through what details to keep in mind in this OOO and even when it can be useful outside of vacations.

If you’re taking time off this summer, I encourage you to set up an Out of Office Reply! If you don’t know where to get started, I’ve got you covered! Download some of my favourite OOO response templates that I’ve compiled through the years: rebeccahay.com/ooo


This episode is sponsored by Devix Kitchens.

Read the Full Transcript ⬇️

Hey, hey, hey, it’s Rebecca and you are listening to Resilient by Design. Today, I’m diving into a shorty episode all about what to do when you are out-of-office. Do you set an out-of-office reply? If so, what does it say? I think it’s just very timely because we are in summer vacation mode. People are going to be traveling.

Designers are going to be needing to take time off for themselves to be with their families. And, We really, let’s face it, don’t want to be always on call. And I don’t want you to be always on call because if I’ve learned anything in the 10 years I’ve been running my business, it’s that you and I, we need breaks.

We need mental breaks from work times when we don’t have to check our phone. We don’t have to check our email. I think today’s episode is very timely and I hope it gets you ready and confident to set those out-of-office replies for clients, vendors. and the like out-of-office. I feel like it’s something that started in the corporate world used to be very formal.

And if you’re coming from corporate, which many of you have, you know, you have a formula to what that looks like. Sometimes designers or creatives, we have a struggle or we have a hard time with Doing these out-of-office replies. So just bear with me here. I’m going to share with you some tips and tricks to creating these out-of-office emails and how you can manage it when you are in the middle of a construction site, like when you’ve got stuff going on, important things happening.

Before I get there, I just want to talk about this idea behind being available and why so many of us resist doing the out-of-office reply. I think some people overuse it and others underuse it. What I’ve seen is that a lot of us as designers and let’s face it, women, we don’t want people to know that we’re not working.

Like, what is that about? It’s so crazy. A man can take time off, not respond to emails, and doesn’t even think twice about it. A woman is thinking, oh my gosh, now I’m obviously generalizing, and please don’t crucify me for this. This is just the, these are the gender roles in my household, and so this is what I know, and so I share what I know.

And I realize not every relationship is like this, and not every man is like this, and not every woman is like this. That’s my disclaimer, but in my experience, also working with hundreds of women inside my community, inside Designer’s Room, inside pop, is that we often are afraid of what people think and we are worried that if we are not readily available, our clients, especially, or even our contractors and trades will think that their project isn’t important to us, or that maybe if we’re not there, we’re dropping the ball.

I don’t know. Whatever the story is, you tell yourself, I got it. I get you. I know it. I feel it. I felt it. It’s in my DNA. However, this is exhausting to always be on. It’s freaking exhausting. Like, who? doesn’t want to ever take a break from work. The reality is you could physically remove yourself from your everyday surroundings.

But if you’re mentally not fully removed, It is not restful. It is not considered recovery. You need to switch off. And I’m not saying that every weekend you need to do this or every vacation, like you’re going to have to choose a frequency with, for which you want to do this. But I really strongly believe you need to check out because so many of the early years of running my business, I would be on a beach vacation.

I would be in Europe. I would be at the cottage and I would be checking my emails. All the time, every day, even when I would do an out-of-office reply, I would still check and I would reply like, Rebecca, what the frig’

why the hell sat it out of office? If you were just going to respond anyways, that then sets the precedent for the person on the other end to email you anyways, while you’re on vacation. And then also to disregard any out-of-office you do in the future. It’s so funny we have clients. They were in our studio the other day for a presentation.

And one of them is a busy, very busy lawyer. And, you know, I overheard him, like, kind of looking at his phone. I’m making a comment to his wife. He’s like, Oh my God, even while she’s on vacation. And I thought it was so interesting. And he was referencing to a colleague that was doing work while on vacation.

And you could tell that he was a little bit miffed because that sets a precedent in the firm. If one person or one partner is responding while on vacation, well, then it makes the other partners feel like they have to. And it was a really interesting, different side of things. And I thought to myself, huh, right.

My clients will value. If I say, listen, I’m going to Europe for two weeks. I am not gonna be able to communicate. Let’s sort out anything we need to do first, and then I will be gone. And then to not respond, if they send like a light inquiry, because I feel like I just want to get it out of my head and out, they’ll respect that.

So let’s talk about how to do these things. These out-of-office replies, O O O. As someone who never worked corporate, when I first saw these, I was like, what does O O O mean? It’s like the first time someone was like, LOL. I’m like, what’s LOL? Oh, laugh out loud. Come on guys. Seriously, don’t make fun of me, but I’m aging myself a little bit, but this is how these things start, right?

If you’re not privy to the terminology of a world, then you don’t know. So an out-of-office reply, what is it? It’s essentially an automatic response in your email. That you can set up whether you use Gmail or any other email provider and you can set it up during a time period. Is that the start date? You can start at the end date.

You could say from February 1st to February 10th. That’s when I want it set. You can even probably put the time if you wanted to. And then you put like a canned response or a template in there. And that is the response that goes out to every single person who sends you an email. There’s other ways to do it and you can get more detailed and granular, but that’s what I do.

I just do it to everybody. I don’t. I don’t have different messages for different types of people. That sounds like way too much effort. What it is, is it’s an opportunity for you to let the person on the other end know that I am not going to be replying instantly to your message. And now you get to choose if you let them know, listen, I’m out of the office, I’m on vacation or whatever it is that you say, I will get back to you in a timely manner, or I’m not going to be as responsive to emails.

Or you could even say, I will be looking or responding to emails upon my return on Monday, July 22nd. It is up to you what you put, but I just thought this shorty episode needed to be had because we’re going into the summer months and this is when people are really truthfully taking time off or trying to.

Each one of you listening to this episode today hopefully will be taking some time off this summer. I just think it’s really helpful.

Here’s why I think you should have an out-of-office reply. One, it lets potential clients, current clients know that you value your time away, that you value balance, that you have a personal life and that you are professional and you can keep boundaries. Also, it tells your trades, I’m not at your beck and call.

I am going to be there when I’m there, but when I’m off, I’m off. I think it’s a really great message and I think it’s a lot more accepted in today’s world than it was five years ago, but it’s still not the same as pre internet. Pre internet, when you went on vacation, and if you are new to the working world, you wouldn’t even know this world, but you would go on a vacation, like, there was zero expectation of responding to emails.

The emails didn’t exist. It was like, if you’re not in your office And you can’t answer the telephone, like you’re on vacation, okay, she’ll just answer when she gets back. So we have now moved into a crazy world where we’re needed all the time. Our wrists are dinging and pinging and binging and our phones are in our pocket or right on the dinner table and messages are coming through and it’s like, Oh shoot, I haven’t responded to that person.

Oh, I just needed to. Oh, ah, ah. We can’t freaking mentally get away. So out of office replies, I’m actually sharing a freebie with you guys in this episode. So just go to the show notes and you can download it. If you go to, Ooh, I’m going to save this link and I’m going to hope we have it set up in time.

rebeccahay.com/ooo then you can download our freebie example out-of-office replies. You can pull from them, use them some different examples of ones that I’ve used in the past that we’ve seen that we really like, take them, copy them, paste them, use them, make them your own. So that’s free for you and you can go and download that.

What I recommend you do in this email response is one. Think about the subject line. I think the subject line is really important because that is what’s going to entice the person to either open up your email right away or just rest assured and see that okay it’s been responded to. So you could do OOO reply, you could do out-of-office, you could say vacation reply, it’s up to you.

Subject line matters. Two, make sure there is a subject line. I’ve seen them where there’s no subject and it’s like re, And then it’s my email and I’m like, what’s going on to be pleasant, be nice, be courteous. Say thank you. Say thank you for your email. I really appreciate it. Blah, blah, whatever it is. And then three, please let them know that you’re not there.

You’re not there. And how you let them know, there was all those examples in the freebie I’m giving you. It’s up to you. You could be honest and infuse some personality. And this is something that I’ve seen more and more of, and I really like this way, instead of just having a really generic response, I’m out of office.

I will be returning on this date. Please forward all inquiries to such and such a person. Okay, fine. You can do that if that’s your personality, but that doesn’t really have a lot of personality in my opinion. You could say something a little bit nicer like. Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I’m taking a beat to be on summer vacation with my family.

I’ll have a much slower response to email, or I will be out of service range. Or you could say like I’ve done when I went to high point market. Thank you for your email. I’m currently down and high point North Carolina at the world’s largest furniture market, sourcing, connecting with new vendors and looking for great products for our clients and future projects.

It’s an exciting time to better our, I don’t know, business practice and yada, yada, yada. I very much look forward to connecting upon my return. What I like about giving them some context is it makes you sound like a real person. Oh my God. Imagine, imagine if the human sending you an email was responded to.

With some personality that they felt like they could connect with that. They were like, Oh, I love that. She did that. Oh, wow. That’s so cool. She went to high point or, Oh my gosh, that’s so neat that she’s in a car at a cottage in Muskoka. I love Muskoka. You don’t have to be. super transparent and tell them where you’re on vacation with your children.

Like I’m at beaches and Turks and Caicos. Come find me freaky people. But it would be nice if you could give them some contacts. You know, I’m just, I’m taking some time away with my family to spend summer vacation with my children. This is such a special time. You know, your project and your emails are really important to me.

And I can’t wait to dive right back into work when I return on such and such a day. Think about how you can infuse personality. That’s the next point. And then the last tip is to include. When you’ll be back and let them know when they can expect to hear from you. So if you are going to be monitoring emails and responding, you can let them know, but if you’re actually not going to even check email, even though I know, let’s be honest, we all kind of check them, but just without the need to respond, tell them when you’ll be back, ready to dive into work and respond to their email, make sure there’s timeframe there.

So they understand one thing I can say is I’ve started to do out-of-office emails when we are doing reveal days and installations. And here’s why. Sorry, I’m getting, this episode’s not a shorty, I’m so sorry. Sometimes I just get on a roll, I can’t help myself. Is that I do these emails because what I was finding is we would be on site, so it’d be construction, maybe there’s decorating, and it’s the final days, right?

And you’re on your feet, you got your running shoes, you got your reveal kit. If you don’t have your reveal kit, go get my checklist I have, I share exactly what Bye bye. Have my reveal kit. It’s on my website. I don’t know the URL. Just go to my website. You’ll find it. But you got your reveal kit, right? Like you’re ready.

You’re like all in. You’re with the drapery installer. You’re making sure that like the painter’s touching up this thing. You’re working on your deficiencies list. You’re walking through with your team or you’re out at HomeSense or out at the local shop getting accessories. You’re unpacking things.

You’re hanging art. You are boots on the ground working your little butt off. It is so hard to switch into a mental space of checking emails. How many times have you been on a job site where it’s like, you’re right, like you’re just physically on the site. Maybe it’s even just a construction and you’re mid construction and you’re here and you’re talking about framing, you’re doing that and it is so hard.

You can’t stay on top of emails. It’s just not physically possible for you to do both unless you have an assistant who’s managing the emails or something like that. So on those days when I know it’s gonna be really hard for me to be at my computer, I I will set an out-of-office reply. I will let them know the team and I are out on a job site today, boots on the ground, working with our, with our contractor, dah, dah, dah.

Our response time will be slightly delayed or slightly longer than usually back in the studio tomorrow, or on a reveal week, I will set a few days or the whole week, depending on the size of the project, I will do an out-of-office. And I will say, This is a really exciting week for us. This is the culmination of all of our hard work.

The team and I are our boots on the ground, bringing one of our projects through to completion. We’re so excited to turn over, hand over the keys to our clients, new home, kitchen space, what have you. During this time, our response time will be delayed as we focus our energies on moving this project to final.

completion. And so what I like about that is it shows others, including especially potential clients or other current clients that you really value that time. And it tells them that when it’s their turn, they’re going to get just as much attention. Okay, let me know. Have you done this? How do you do this?

Go grab our freebie go to Rebecca hey. com forward slash Oh, I hope that works. If it doesn’t work, just send me a DM on Instagram. Go to the show notes. We’ll for sure have a link in the show notes and get the freebie if you want some templates on how that you can take and make your own. Just please take time for yourself this summer.

Take time off. You can work on your business, but take time off from being in your business. Take time off. Set an out-of-office. Have a CEO day. Work on some forecasting numbers if you want. Work on a marketing plan. Prep your photo shoot, whatever, list for the fall. But take time for you. And totally unwind and disconnect.

And one of the ways you can do that is by sending an out-of-office email. I hope you guys enjoyed that episode. I’ll see you soon