A Slack guide to going out of office

How to take vacation, ready your team, and return worry-free

A person relaxing in a hammock showing they don't have to stress about work while on vacation
Image Credit: Pete Ryan

Even though many of us daydream about our next vacation, there’s a real fear about being able to unplug, leave your team and projects behind, and return later with minimal disruption. It’s not easy, and it’s natural to ask yourself, What will happen at work while I’m gone, and how will I ever catch up when I get back?

Office Hours column sign

Study after study shows that taking breaks—and vacation in particular—increases productivity and creativity. Aside from the cognitive benefits of added sleep and mental downtime, taking vacation is critical to motivating people to do more in less time (while at work), while the novelty of being away from your usual surroundings can inspire greater creativity. All of this leads to healthier, happier, and more successful employees.

It’s important to take an extended break every once in a while, and Slack has a lot of benefits and features built into it to make your escapes from the office as smooth as possible for you and your teammates. Here are a few ways Slack works for you when you’re not working.

Rest easy when planning to go off the grid

Slack’s real-time transparency means that work can continue without you—key discussions and decisions take place in open, organized channels instead of being hidden in your email. Your team can see previous files and discussions posted before you left and can move projects forward in your absence. If you’re on an island tour, it doesn’t have to be anyone’s complete blocker.

Prepare your team

To prep coworkers for your departure, consider creating a specific, shared time-off calendar for the team. If you use Google Calendar, you can have it post into a channel every Monday morning to remind the team who happens to be off that week.

 

Slack screenshot showing a Google Calendar update listing events

Announce your status

You can let everyone know where you are and when you’ll be back by updating your custom status. It appears everywhere your name does, including your user profile and any message you’ve sent in Slack. Illustrate it with an emoji to indicate that you’re on an airplane or lounging under a palm tree, and let people know the date when you’ll return in the status text.

Slack custom status set to vacation

Don’t forget to set an end date for your trip, both in your status message text and in the status expiration date.

How to select an end date for a custom status notification

A clear, descriptive status message is the best indicator of a person’s presence in Slack, and your fellow coworkers will know to hold their requests until after your return date.

Keep your notifications quiet

Maximize your Do Not Disturb mode settings to set expectations for when you’ll respond. Teammates can send you messages meant to be read later without worrying that they’re bothering you.

Leave notes in reminders

Reminders in Slack are exactly that—messages reminding you or someone else to do anything you need at any future time or date you choose. Set them before you leave to remind yourself to do various things when you return, or ask others to set them for you if anything comes up while you’re gone. You can also ask Slack to remind you later about a particular message or conversation.

DM yourself a quick note

If you send yourself a direct message in Slack, it works as your own private notepad—one that you can’t lose off the side of your cruise ship. If a visit to an art museum or national park sparks a brilliant idea for a new project, post a note to yourself right in Slack (and set a reminder to act on it when you return).

Catch up on the right things when you get back

The Slack desktop app offers two views to help you catch up on things you’ve missed: All Unreads and Threads. Each is a quick way to see the conversations that took place in the channels you follow while you were away. Hint: Use the “Mark as Read” button in All Unreads to skip channels not immediately vital to you.

 

Use either All Unreads or Threads to catch up on messages

Share your experience with others

When you’re back and settled, share photos from your trip by uploading them to a channel shared by your team or to another channel meant for socializing (like #travel or #vacation-dispatches). Posting photos can help create a healthy culture within your organization around time off and inspire others to take time for themselves.

Taking a break from the office doesn’t mean work has to grind to a halt. With a little planning and an update to your status, your team can continue to move projects forward in Slack even while you recharge. And once you’ve returned, Slack has tools to help you pick up right where you left off. 

 

Evie Nagy is going to use her next PTO to clean her house, which is its own kind of adventure.

 

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