How to configure Google Workspace for a vacation

Change settings in Google Calendar, Gmail and Google Chat to indicate that you’re on a holiday.

Illustration: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

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.

SEE: Feature comparison: Time tracking software and systems (TechRepublic Premium)

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 

  1. Open Google Calendar, either on the web or in the Google Calendar mobile app on Android or iOS.
  2. Select the + button to create a new event.
  3. Select the Out of Office event type to indicate you’ll be unavailable (Figure A).
  4. Add an appropriate title (e.g., “On a much needed vacation”).
  5. Configure the dates and times to reflect your vacation days.
  6. 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. 
  7. Figure A

    Screenshot of Google Calendar on the web, with Out of office event details displayed: Event title (Out of office), type (Out of office), Dates (Dec 8 - Dec 12), All day events, configured to Automatically decline all new and existing meetings during those dates.

    On the web, create an out-of-office event for the days you’ll be away. In most cases, you’ll want the system to automatically decline new and existing meetings for the duration of your vacation.

  8. 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.”)
  9. Make sure to select Save to preserve your changes and add the event to your Google Calendar.
  10. Figure B

    Screenshot of Google Calendar Out of office event on Android, with Out of office event details displayed: Event title (Out of office), type (Out of office), Dates (Dec 8 - Dec 12), All day events, configured to Automatically decline all new and existing meetings during those dates.

    The Google Calendar app (on Android, shown here, and iOS) also lets you schedule an out-of-office event.

    How to configure a Gmail vacation responder

    1. On the web, go to Gmail.
    2. Select Settings (the sprocket, in the upper right area), then See All Settings.
    3. On the General tab, scroll to the bottom to access the Vacation responder (Figure C).
    4. Select the first and last dates you want your responder to be active.
    5. Enter the Gmail subject and message you want the system to send while you’re on vacation.
    6. 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.

    Figure C

    Screenshot of Gmail Vacation responder settings on the web, showing First day (Dec 8, 2021), Last day (Dec 12, 2021), Subject "Out of office", Message text "Add your vacation or out of office email message and details here! Andy", and options checked to only send a response to people in my contacts and only send a response to people in WolberWorks (i.e., your organization).

    On the web, configure the vacation responder in Gmail. Make sure to select Save Changes when done.

    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, [email protected]) then tap on the Vacation responder option. Configure your options as desired (Figure D).

    Figure D

    Screenshot of Vacation responder on Android, with First day Dec 8, 2021, Last day, Dec 12, 2021. Subject field filled with "On vacation" and Message field filled with "Add your vacation message here…" as well as options checked to send only to my contacts and send only to WolberWorks (i.e., your organization).

    You also may configure a vacation responder from the Gmail app (on Android, as shown here, as well as iOS).

    Set your Google Chat status to Vacationing

    1. On the web, go to Gmail (or, alternatively, to Google Chat).
    2. In the upper right area, select the Status drop-down and choose Add a Status from the menu options (Figure E).
    3. Select Vacationing, then add any details you wish to disclose in the status text area (e.g., “Vacationing for the first time in years”).
    4. Select the Clear Status After drop-down option menu and choose Custom.
    5. 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.

    Figure E

    Screenshot of Gmail on the web, with chat status box showing "Vacationing" with a tree emoji and Clear status after option set to Dec 13, 9:00 AM.

    As one of your last actions before vacation, change your Google Chat status to Vacationing. You may select the date and time that your status will revert to usual (i.e., Active or Away).

    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).

    Figure F

    Screenshot of status on an Android device, set to Vacationing and Clear status after field set to 11/28/21 08:59.

    You may set your Google Chat status to Vacationing on an Android or iOS device from within either the Gmail or Google Chat app.

    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).

    How to configure Google Workspace for a vacation

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