One of the things that I’m not shy about in my life and work is time off.
I love travel and culture; and yes, I sheepishly admit that I’ve thrown the occasional, privileged pity party for myself over the past couple months because travel’s been lacking.
So even though breaks this summer look more like staycations and drivable Airbnbs where my family can hole up in isolation, I think that for everybody’s sanity, time off right now is more important than ever. And so even in these, um.. special times, I encourage everyone around me who usually takes summer vacation now, to do so in a safe and modified way.
Many people assume that when you own your own business (especially if you’re the face of it) that you always have to be on and connected. They believe that your computer must follow your travels.
I respectfully disagree.
It takes a lot of organization, planning, and frankly: confidence. If you’ve structured your business well and approach your time off proactively, it’s entirely possible to vacation and leave your work behind. In fact, I’d go so far to say that you’re doing your team, your clients, and the future of your business a disservice if it truly can’t survive without you. Said another way, this is a great litmus test to determine if your business has value in its own right.
“Even though breaks this summer look more like staycations and drivable Airbnbs where my family can hole up in isolation, I think that for everybody’s sanity, time off right now is more important than ever.” Julie Sellers, CEO & Founder – Ellevated Outcomes
Here’s my current OOO process and templates, to help you plan so that you can take a proper break
And PS: if you’re a solopreneur, this template will be better suited for you.
2 weeks to go…
First, be excited!
Second, share your excitement with colleagues and clients. Not in a gloaty way, of course – but in an “I’m so lucky that I get to go to ___________ way.” If you’re a good boss, teammate, and business person, the people around you will be excited for you and want to help while you’re away.
You’re enrolling them in your joy, and you’re also planting the verbal of awareness: you’re giving them a heads up that you’ll be away.
Alert your boss, then colleagues, then outside people you serve. You’ll want to get the commitment of at least one of your colleagues to back you up while you’re away.
“Many people assume that when you own your own business (especially if you’re the face of it) that you always have to be on and connected. They believe that your computer must follow your travels. I respectfully disagree.” Julie Sellers, CEO & Founder of Ellevated Outcomes.
1 week to go…
Proactively communicate, in writing to those affected, the dates that you’ll be away.
Here’s the exact email that I save in my Outlook templates and send:
Dear Wonderful Colleagues and Clients,
I wanted to let you know that I’m going to be out of the office next week, <beginning date> through <end date.>
I like to make sure that you know ahead of time, in case there’s anything you need (that I don’t already know about). Please let me know in the next 24 hours so that I can make it a priority to support you this week.
As most of you know, when I take time away from work, I don’t check my email nor phone. But great news! Before I leave, I will get my colleague ________ 100% up to speed on the work that we’re doing together so that you can have any support you need while I’m away.
Because I’m a planner, I usually know what I need to do to tie up loose client ends in the coming days. However, this email does usually create a 2-3 requests to complete before I leave, which is no problem. I asked for it!
Also, be sure to schedule time with the colleague who’s backing you up to fill them in on things you anticipate may arise while you’re away. Alongside this, you’ll need to make sure that they have access to any files, calendars, etc. At Ellevated Outcomes we have everything organized in Dubsado and Dropbox with consistent organization patterns, so that each strategist can easily locate another strategist’s files.
The afternoon of my last day in the office (usually around 3PM), I put up my out of office email. The timing of this is important. If last minute, non-critical emails come in, I don’t want to feel obligated to respond while I’m supposed to be riding into the sunset. Here’s what my OOO looked like over the July 4th holiday (I’m never afraid to infuse a little personality; why not?!):
Hello and thank you for your email!
I will be away from the office (email and phone) from July 3rd through July 10th for my favorite holiday! Admittedly, it will look a little different from normal this year, but that’s another story…
If you’re one of our beloved clients and need immediate assistance, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s in the know on all client work and will be delighted to help.
Please keep well, be safe, and take some time to relax over this holiday!
Here’s the not-so-secret trick: once you put up this OOO, you can’t respond! The precedent that you set here is really important. If you reply, people are going to expect you to continue replying while you’re away.
If you have great colleagues and clients (like we’re lucky to!), they’ll be excited for you and respect your time off. Of course, there will always be a couple who aren’t caught up on their emails and text while you’re away… But don’t be bashful; it’s up to you to set the expectation for how you want to get away. If you reply to people while you’re out (in any fashion), you’re training them to do the thing you don’t want them to do and devaluing your business. Be bold and take your well-deserved time off!
I hope that this gives your summer a little ease, and I hope that you’re surrounded by people who want you to relax and get some (safe) time and space from work right now.
Julie Sellers graduated from the HEC Paris Executive MBA in 2017, before moving her family to Nashville and becoming the founder and CEO of Ellevated Outcomes, a business dedicated to helping creative entrepreneurs and small businesses grow with integrity. When she’s not helping other entrepreneurs figure out how to make a positive impact you can find her enjoying time with her family, indulging in her love of books or fantasizing about moving back to Europe.