How to ensure your boss takes your Out Of Office seriously

Take a break from your email inbox

‘I hate that my boss always emails me when I go on holiday. How do I take a break without damaging my career?’

Finally, after months of working your fingers to the bone, the summer has arrived and you’re on holiday, kicking back on the beach with a cocktail in one hand and a double chocolate Magnum in the other. Aaand relax. Ping! You check your phone to discover a notification – not from the weather app reassuring you of wall-to-wall sunshine for the rest of the day – but from your overbearing boss asking you to quickly log into work remotely and do a ‘small favour’.

The problem is, you’ve lost count of the times your well-deserved break has been rudely interrupted in this way and thanks to modern man’s incurable smartphone addiction, it’s almost impossible to go off-grid. Sound familiar? Luckily, there are a few things you can do to reclaim your precious holiday time.

‘Set clear ground rules for contacting you while you’re away’

Make sure everyone knows you are going on annual leave, how long you will be gone for and what to expect while you are away. That means informing not only those people you work closely with in the office, but also clients and anyone external who might rely on you. Tell them who to turn to in your absence and set clear ground rules for contacting you while you’re away. This should help put everyone (including your boss) at ease and give them confidence that the walls of the office won’t come tumbling down while you disappear for a couple of weeks.

Giving a landline number on which you can be contacted in an emergency and having someone else check your emails are ideal. Also, add the details of someone in your team who will be able to deal with inquiries in your out-of-office message and explain that there might be a delay in responding.

‘Our ‘always on’ culture is causing a stress epidemic among British workers’

If your manager doesn’t take the hint and continues to overstep the boundaries while you are away, then make sure whatever you email back is as brief as possible. Politely tell your boss that you will make a note to respond more in-depth as soon as you return and be clear that you are unable to give it the attention needed while you are gone. Agreeing to undertake the requested task could set a dangerous precedent, but responding with a thoughtful message instead draws an important line for this holiday and in the future.

Our ‘always on’ culture is causing a stress epidemic among British workers, so some holidaymakers are going back to basics by shutting down work email notifications (or deleting the app completely), returning to simpler times with an old ‘dumbphone’ or even opting for tech-free holiday packages where even phone reception is refreshingly (or annoyingly) hard to find.

Reducing screen time to zero with an extreme digital detox may not be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no doubt that limiting our access to technology on annual leave is a good idea if we want to fully recharge our batteries, both physically and metaphorically. And with research showing we are more productive when we are not chained to our phones, any boss worth their salt would want their workers to disconnect to reconnect.

Matthew Jenkin is our regular careers columnist and will get back to your email when he returns from annual leave