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Ready to put some of that PTO to use?

Richelle Szypulski
June 17, 2016

We have some beef with you, American workforce. This year’s Project: Time Off survey has revealed that, yet again, you refuse to use all of your paid time off days. The 2014 report was worrisome enough with 429 million vacation days going to waste, but being the overachievers you are, you had to go and set a new record at 658 million lost vacation days in 2015.

What is the deal? Are we not giving you enough inspiring trip ideas? Is the world that awaits out there not exciting enough to pry you out of your swiveling office chair?

We’ve heard all of the excuses, and frankly, none are good enough. Want the company to know you’re dedicated? Submit your vacation day request with statistics that correlate used PTO to an uptick in concentration, productivity, and satisfaction in the workplace. No money to travel? Start with this guide, and remember that you will also be getting a paycheck for your time spent exploring the world. Take a trip worth the equivalent of only that paycheck to even it out. Too much work to do? We can help with that one.

While it’s just one more thing on the list that stands between you and a beach in Bali, the out-of-office auto response still needs to be crossed off. Because you are all clearly obsessive workaholics, with no time to take a vacation let alone write a message that tells people you’re on one, we took care of this one for you.

Here, a very professional, nine-step guide to crafting the perfect out-of-office email—one that inspires everyone who gets it to travel.

Step 1: Select an appropriate greeting.

You could say something drab like “Hello,” or you could really set the tone by using a traditional greeting in the language of your destination. An auto-response to someone who likely needs something from you that starts with “Aloha!” or “Xin chào!” will definitely not anger them in any way. Just in case, maybe follow it up with a quick thank-you.

Example:

Xin chào!

Thanks for your message.

Step 2: Disclose your impending location.

In case this isn’t already clear, the goal here is to make people jealous so that they too schedule a vacation, so be descriptive.

Example:

Xin chào!

Thanks for your message. I may currently be riding on the back of a motorbike, enjoying bun cha, or peacefully gawking at temples in Hanoi, Vietnam, but I am not in the office.

Step 3: Give the people answers.

The most important thing anyone who gets your auto response will want to know: When will you be back? But don’t tell them that date. Tell them a few days later than that date and you will seem like a human capable of office feats such as Inbox Zero when you answer sooner than expected.

Example:

Xin chào!

Thanks for your message. I may currently be riding on the back of a motorbike, enjoying bun cha, or peacefully gawking at temples in Hanoi, Vietnam, but I am not in the office until my return on Monday, July 11 Wednesday, July 13.  

Step 4: Volunteer the tributes.

Now, it’s time to decide which unwilling colleague(s) you’d like to sacrifice to the immediate assistance gods. You can do this as a general catchall referral, or by specific categories if there are different second-in-commands for the various important responsibilities of your job.

Example:

Xin chào!

Thanks for your message. I may currently be riding on the back of a motorbike, enjoying bun cha, or peacefully gawking at temples in Hanoi, Vietnam, but I am not in the office until my return on Wednesday, July 13. If you need immediate assistance, please bother contact mycoworker@company.com.

Step 5: Omit all personal methods of contact.

It is tempting to include your Gmail or cell number in the event of a crisis, but you need to step back and ask yourself: “How important is my job, really? Will the business crumble into oblivion if I don’t answer one question?” Probably not, and if yes, that still doesn’t seem like a you problem. You have earned one week of uninterrupted vacation. Take it without guilt.

Example:

Xin chào!

Thanks for your message. I may currently be riding on the back of a motorbike, enjoying bun cha, or peacefully gawking at temples in Hanoi, Vietnam, but I am not in the office until my return on Wednesday, July 13. If you need immediate assistance, please contact mycoworker@company.com. I will have limited not have access to email.

Step 6: Plug your social handles.

You are, however, encouraged to include links to your Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. accounts. Everyone knows your personal brand is not by any means personal. Plus, if there is a true work emergency, an Instagram comment notification is far more likely to catch your attention than an email.

Example:

Xin chào!

Thanks for your message. I may currently be riding on the back of a motorbike, enjoying bun cha, or peacefully gawking at temples in Hanoi, Vietnam, but I am not in the office until my return on Wednesday, July 13. If you need immediate assistance, please contact mycoworker@company.com. I will not have access to email, but you can see what I’m up to instead @myhandle on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

Step 7: Stop reading over the message.

You’re not forgetting anything. Your body is just engineering this feeling of dread as a result of the fact that we spend almost our whole working lives at a desk and deep down, you’re afraid to leave your cubicle comfort zone. Ignore it.

Example:

Xin chào!

Thanks for your message. I may currently be riding on the back of a motorbike, enjoying bun cha, or peacefully gawking at temples in Hanoi, Vietnam, but I am not in the office until my return on Wednesday, July 13. If you need immediate assistance, please contact mycoworker@company.com. I will not have access to email, but you can see what I’m up to instead @myhandle on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. In case of emergency, please call my cell at  

Step 8: Sign off.

Again, just like the greeting, you can be boring and say something like “Best,” or you can overdo the foreign language play, but isn’t it better to really drive the “use your PTO days” angle home?

Example:

Xin chào!

Thanks for your message. I may currently be riding on the back of a motorbike, enjoying bun cha, or peacefully gawking at temples in Hanoi, Vietnam, but I am not in the office until my return on Wednesday, July 13. If you need immediate assistance, please contact mycoworker@company.com. I will not have access to email, but you can see what I’m up to instead @myhandle on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

When’s your next vacation?

Me

Step 9: Set it and forget it.

OK, you are allowed to email yourself once just to admire your masterpiece make sure it works. But after that, nope. No more. Go forth and enjoy the vacation days that you are being paid to take.

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