Out of office is out of office

Every month we send our CX Greetz. CX Greetz is the name of my monthly CX newsletter, and it's based on how I always finish my emails using "happy greetz" instead of "best regards" or something else you might use. While we send it to my community of more than 2,200 interested people, we also get many out-of-office replies.

Some make me frown: "I'm not in the office right now, when I return, all emails will be deleted, so please send it again at date X". Some make me laugh: "I'm busy watching Christmas movies, catch you later", and some just make me cringe "I'm on holidays for the next three weeks, but if you really want to get hold of me, please send me a text".

No. No. No. Of course you're seemingly very helpful, but you are not very helpful to you. Let's get into the situation: a colleague decides he needs you for something very important. He texts you and asks for your help and references an email he sent you.

You are at the beach with your spouse and maybe even with your kids. It's sunny, you're drinking a cocktail and the sushi will be brought out in twenty minutes. Your phone makes the texting sound and: "Hello, this is work!" Just when you were meant to enjoy some mental and physical relaxation.

Since you have a strong sense of responsibility, you open your emails and you're reading the email your colleague sent (and now you are at it, you’re also reading all other emails) and you answer the question. Your spouse asks what you are doing, you complain about colleagues that are incapable of doing their work and somehow the atmosphere and energy have changed.

Believe me, holidays are holidays. You have to be clear: when you are away, you are away. Make sure that colleagues can manage whatever needs to be managed and when you are back, you'll be really back. Because the minute you start responding to emails and text messages, people will think you are available and you have created your own misery.

Create a clear out of office reply, mentioning who people can contact in your absence, because you are out of office. Now it is up to you to trust your colleagues to manage your requests. And to change your voicemail and your WhatsApp profile text.

Thinking back to my experience and how I brought my laptop on the first trip. As I was helping some clients and I was answering emails, they thought I would also answer the questions that arose from that email. This led me to open my laptop every night, checking emails and not only that, having work thoughts linger in my mind. As I also use WhatsApp in a business context, I changed my profile text to “Walking a pilgrim’s path -> date X”. When people did text me, I sent them a request to send an email instead and advised them that my assistant would manage it, since I was out on my pilgrimage. And everybody understood!

We human beings need mental rest. Time away from the office, like holidays, or what I have been doing, walking a pilgrim’s path. These moments are perfect for a mental reset. To create the ideal setting, you need to be clear to the outside world. Create boundaries and set the scene. Holidays are holidays. Not even a bit work, not one email.

During the later parts of my pilgrimage, I didn’t bring my laptop, but I also instructed my team in a better way. “Please manage all emails and customer requests yourselves. I believe in you and when I am back, I will be completely sane and fully energized to get all work done again”. It created clarity for all. Mental rest for me and because of the trust of me in them, they felt that the company was in their safe hands.

Trust me. Clarity and acting on it, will pave the way. When you're out of the office, you really are!

This blog is from my latest book 'CX is a pilgrimage - 50 strategies to spice up your leadership'. The book will be published at the end of September 2022.