According to Gallup, nearly 76% of employees experience burnout at least once. While everyone’s idea of rejuvenation is different, the majority of people can agree that taking some much needed vacation time helps with bouncing back.
At Seer, we’re lucky to have a generous time-off policy (Thanks, Leadership!) that allows everyone at the company to take unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO). Yes -- you saw that correctly -- Unlimited PTO.
But with great power comes great responsibility, which means a comprehensive OOO Plan is critical to ensuring that your clients and teammates are supported while you take the R&R time you need. That’s why I’ve created this guide to help you develop a seamless OOO Plan so you can actually relax when you’re out of the office.
Steps to Create an Out of Office (OOO) Coverage Plan
Make sure you’re setting yourself up for success (and a stress-free PTO) by creating a comprehensive OOO plan. When I was getting ready to take a 3 week vacation, I had to sit down and anticipate the coverage needs for each of my accounts, check with my account teams, and draft an easy-to-digest document.
Below, I highlight a brief overview of how I went about this process, but if you’re interested in starting your OOO plan right away.
Note: This template is based on our internal structure at Seer and can be tweaked to use the language your company is familiar with.
Step #1: Outline the Coverage
Begin by creating a dedicated document to house all of the information in your coverage plan and filling out the basic information that your coverage team needs to know in order to successfully fill in for you while you’re on vacation.
Step #2: Review with Manager
Ask each of the managers you report to, to review the document for the respective account you work together on. Have them review to ensure the appropriate amount of coverage is secured based on their individual needs during your time off.
Step #3: Confirm with Coverage Team Members
Ask covering team members to look over the OOO plan and sign their initials once reviewed. This way, you know they have the opportunity to ask any questions before you head out on PTO.
Step #4: Gather Resources
After the plan and coverage are set for your OOO time, it’s time to gather the appropriate resources to leave the team with everything they need to fill in for you while you’re out.
Leverage videos and templates to help your coverage team have the foundation they need for the task at hand.
Videos can be filmed on Loom and sent to the coverage team members -- I recommend walking them through your typical process for completing the task they are covering.
Templates should be formatted in alignment with your usual task, so that whoever is covering for you can make a blank copy of the template and spend less time worrying about formatting. It’s a win-win for the coverage team and the reviewers.
Step #5: Create a Pulse Check
Time to plan for your return! Create a Return to Office Survey for your account teams to fill out approximately 2 days to 1 week prior to your return. This helps gather insights and get to the bottom line of what you need to know when coming back from time off.
To ensure this doesn’t slip anyone’s mind, schedule an email to be sent on a specific day before you even leave the office! Just remember to attach the form, use the “schedule send” feature in Gmail and voila -- you have a way to send a reminder ping without having to take time out of your vacation.
I use Google Sheets and Google Forms for my OOO Planning because not only are they so easily shareable among team members, they can be connected! That’s right, your OOO Plan Google Sheet can house the responses from your Return to Office Google Form Survey automatically!
Goodbye digging out of emails, hello efficiency.
What Should I Put In My OOO Plan?
We’ve all been there -- scratching our heads for what we’re forgetting to include in our OOO plan. While I can’t tell you exactly what you need to have in your plan for your specific position, I can help get you started with the OOO Plan Checklist below!
Out Of Office Checklist
- Important links to previous deliverables for the coverage team to reference
- A deliverable template for the coverage team to make a copy of as needed
- Video walkthroughs for your coverage to leverage any time throughout your OOO time
- Any important due dates or meeting dates
- Contact information for emergencies (client side, internal, etc)
- Hour estimates for the work your team is covering so they can plan ahead to ensure they have ample time to dedicate to your accounts
- Any nuanced information that may need to be specified to someone new to the Client/Industry/Deliverable/Account/etc.
- A reminder of the dates you will be OOO, as well as your return to office date
- A place for your managers to log their approval/concerns with the plan
- Anything else your specific positions/company require!
Out Of Office Message Examples
So you’ve been approved for taking PTO, but now comes the hard part -- actually taking the PTO. One way to ensure you’re not being inundated with email pings while you’re out is to set a vacation responder.
The last vacation I took was a 3 week cross-country roadtrip to camp and hike from PA - > UT, so I had extremely limited opportunities to check in and make sure everything was running smoothly. This was my OOO Message:
Check out some more example OOO Messages below and please feel free to use them!
Professional OOO Message
If you’re looking for something a bit more formal, try this:
I hope this email finds you well. I am currently OOO and unavailable until [RETURN TO OFFICE DATE].
If the matter is urgent, please contact [OOO COVERAGE PERSON] and they will be able to assist you in getting matters swiftly resolved.
Thank you and I look forward to following up with you when I am back in the office.
Simple OOO Message
If you want something more casual, this is a great starting point:
Thanks so much for reaching out!
I’m currently OOO [PLACE YOU’RE VISITING] [THING YOU’RE DOING], and won’t be able to check email until I return to the office on [RETURN TO OFFICE DATE].
If the matter is urgent, please reply with [URGENT] in the subject line and I will get back to you as quickly as possible.
For everything else, please contact [OOO COVERAGE PERSON] and they’ll be able to help you!
Thanks for understanding,
Please note: The line about [URGENT] only applies to you if you’re truly planning to check email while you're away. You can leave that out if you want to really unplug.
If you’re stuck on how to word a vacation responder email, talk to your manager about what the best phrasing is for your particular position and industry.
Now go ahead and start planning your much deserved PTO!
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