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How to turn off the always-on work culture

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 16-04-2017 Marc Saltzman

A rider texting on a BART train in San Francisco. With most office tools available on smart phones, it's often hard to unplug from work.© Elizabeth Weise A rider texting on a BART train in San Francisco. With most office tools available on smart phones, it's often hard to unplug from work. Just as technology makes you accessible to everyone, anywhere and anytime, you can use these same tools to responsibly take a little time off for when you need it, without suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out), or risk upsetting your colleagues. Perhaps a short digital detox is just what the doctor ordered.

“We’re all pulled in so many directions with technology, whether it's for professional or personal reasons, and sometimes the two clash,” says Daniel Sieberg, author of "The Digital Diet" (Crown; $4.95) in an interview with USA TODAY. “Our time is the most valuable commodity on the planet, and sometimes we need to recharge or re-energize, and it will ultimately allow us to be more productive and effective in the long run.”

Out of office auto-replies

If you can delegate, perhaps include a line like “If it’s urgent, please contact ______,” or have a trusted coworker access your email while you’re away.  Setting up an auto-reply is quite easy for popular email programs, like Outlook and Gmail.

With Outlook, for a POP or IMAP account, first create a new message, and then enter the desired subject and message for your OOO auto-reply. Save the email. Now you can create the rule for your auto-reply, such as having the bounce-back message sent to everyone or only specific contacts. To do this, click File>Info>Rules and Alerts. If you’re running Microsoft Exchange, it may be under File>Info>Automatic Replies.

Speaking of Outlook, if you allow for your free/busy information to be visible to others in Outlook Calendar, you can indicate you are out of office by adding an item to your calendar for the days you’ll be out and specifying for it to show as “out of office.” Some people even send a calendar item to their team members so their out-of-office dates are on colleagues’ calendars too.

With Gmail, click Settings in the top right of the page, and scroll down to the "Vacation responder" section. Turn this on. Fill in the date range, subject, and message. Underneath your message, check off the box if you only want your contacts to see your vacation reply.

At the bottom of the page, click Save Changes. That’s it.

Other email tips and tricks

One more suggestion: if you don’t want your clients to know you’re away, you can always schedule emails to be sent while you’re away.

With Outlook, you can queue up a bunch of messages before you leave and then have them fired off later. Start a new message, click Options near the upper-middle of the screen, select Delay Delivery, and finally, click Do Not Deliver Before. Now select the date and time when this message should be delivered using the drop-down boxes. Write your message, click Send and it’ll hang in your outbox until your specified time. Note: your PC needs to be on for it to send at the specified time.

Gmail users can also do this via a third-party tool, like the free Boomerang add-on.

Slack, Skype

Popular tools like Slack and Skype for Business can also be used to (gently) tell people you’re unplugging for a bit.

A new feature unveiled this week, Slack — a cloud-based team collaboration platform — now lets you set your status, so you can let your teammates know you’re away, when you’ll be back, whom to contact in your place, or anything else you want to share.

You can pick from five default options for common scenarios when you’re away – such as being on vacation, off sick, or working remotely – or create your own custom status update, up to 100 characters and illustrated with an emoji of your choice.

You can set a status from a web browser, or on the desktop and mobile versions of Slack. From your computer, click your name in the upper left corner of your sidebar, then select Set a status. On the iOS or Android app, tap the More items icon (...), or edit your status directly from your profile.  Your Slack status will be displayed until you change it.

Another trendy productivity tool, Skype for Business, also lets you manually change your status to “Off work” or “Do not disturb” -- the latter which will block people from instant-messaging or calling you.

If you like, specify your location, as well as enter a custom message that will appear in your contact card across Microsoft’s Office 365.

On a related note, before you head out on vacation you can send a message to your teams in Microsoft Teams, new group chat software, to let them know when you’ll be back to work.

Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. E-mail him at askmarcsaltzman@gmail.com.

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