Before you take a break from work, configure three Google Workspace apps for vacation (or, on holiday, as they say in some parts of the world). You have a few choices to make in Google Calendar, Gmail and Google Chat, depending on how you want each app to handle incoming events, email and messages while you’re away.
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To prepare each of these apps for your absence, make sure you’re signed in with your Google Workspace organization account, then follow the steps below. You may schedule a Google Calendar out-of-office event and configure your Gmail vacation responder at any time. However, I suggest you wait to adjust your Google Chat status to vacationing as one of the very last things you do before your break, since that status change goes into effect immediately.
Schedule a Google Calendar out-of-office event
- Open Google Calendar, either on the web or in the Google Calendar mobile app on Android or iOS.
- Select the + button to create a new event.
- Select the Out of Office event type to indicate you’ll be unavailable (Figure A).
- Add an appropriate title (e.g., “On a much needed vacation”).
- Configure the dates and times to reflect your vacation days.
- By default, the system will automatically decline all existing and new events on your calendar during the selected period. Unless you must fill your time off with meetings, I strongly recommend you leave the setting as the default.
- If you want, modify the message people will receive to explain your absence (Figure B). The default reply reads “Declined because I am out of office,” but you may edit it to elaborate as appropriate (e.g., “I am on vacation until Dec. 8. Please contact (name) at (email/phone) if you need help while I’m off.”)
- Make sure to select Save to preserve your changes and add the event to your Google Calendar.
- On the web, go to Gmail.
- Select Settings (the sprocket, in the upper right area), then See All Settings.
- On the General tab, scroll to the bottom to access the Vacation responder (Figure C).
- Select the first and last dates you want your responder to be active.
- Enter the Gmail subject and message you want the system to send while you’re on vacation.
- By default, if you do not select any additional options, Gmail will reply to every incoming email with the vacation subject and message you enter. However, I strongly suggest that you select the checkboxes next to “Only send a response to people in my contacts” and “Only send a response to people in (your organization).” This ensures that only people you know or work with will receive your vacation responder message. While your colleagues and contacts are presumably people you trust, there’s typically no need for your responder to divulge your vacation status to every single entity that sends you an email while you’re away.
- On the web, go to Gmail (or, alternatively, to Google Chat).
- In the upper right area, select the Status drop-down and choose Add a Status from the menu options (Figure E).
- Select Vacationing, then add any details you wish to disclose in the status text area (e.g., “Vacationing for the first time in years”).
- Select the Clear Status After drop-down option menu and choose Custom.
- Choose the date and time you plan to be available again, then select the Set button. Your vacationing status will be removed at the date and time you specified.
How to configure a Gmail vacation responder
Note: To access the Vacation responder on an Android or iOS device, open the Gmail app, tap the three horizontal line menu (upper left), tap Settings, then tap your workspace account (e.g., in my case, firstname.lastname@example.org) then tap on the Vacation responder option. Configure your options as desired (Figure D).
Set your Google Chat status to Vacationing
Note: On an Android or iOS device, the Add a Status option is available in the Gmail app (if you access Chat within Gmail) as well as within the separate Google Chat app (Figure F). In either case, open the app, then tap the three horizontal line menu in the upper left. Tap the Add a Status option that displays (immediately below your current Google Chat status).
What’s your experience?
Do most people in your organization make the above changes before they take a vacation? Are there other apps and/or settings you typically change, in addition to the three above? Let me know how you configure your systems for extended holidays, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber).
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