I’m Out of the Office. Really.
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I’m Out of the Office. Really.

The key to a truly restorative holiday? Crafting the perfect out-of-office email.

Tue, Jun 28, 2022 11:49amGrey Clock 4 min

In January, Claire Davis started buying bathing suits. In February, she prepped videos to send to clients in her absence. In April, the vacation finally arrived, and the day before her flight to Hawaii, she sat down to write her first out-of-office message since starting her own business six years ago.

“Girl, you’re looking so professional,” Ms. Davis, a Spokane, Wash.-based career consultant for medical-sales professionals, thought to herself as she crafted the note. As she pressed the button, “I felt free.”

The feeling lasted about an hour. While waiting in line for brunch with friends, frantic texts started pouring in. Somehow, she had inadvertently set her auto reply to spam message everyone who’d sent her an email since 2016.

Some—like the close contacts texting her—had been inundated with hundreds of out-of-office replies, one for every email they’d ever sent her.

“It was horrifying,” she says, estimating the messages reached tens of thousands of people.

You’re going on vacation. All that’s left to do is unlock the magic wording that will free you from your inbox—and by extension, your work life. So why is it so hard?

Fiddling with the settings is just the start. Do you make a joke, open up about your personal life? How do you get people to leave you alone without making them feel abandoned or annoyed? Are they judging the length of your absence? Maybe it’s not even worth trying to log off at all.

“You want this time off, but at the same time you feel so pressured and so guilty,” says Ariane Ollier-Malaterre, a professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal who studies how workers manage the boundary between work and life.

The agonizing isn’t our fault, she says. Modern workplaces expect people to be perpetually reachable, and the pandemic seems to have shortened expectations for message-response times. Working from home, out of sight, we should at least be a click away, the thinking goes. A survey from cloud-software company Qualtrics earlier this year found that 49% of respondents did at least an hour of work a day while on vacation.

The out-of-office email has the potential to be your shield, Dr. Ollier-Malaterre says. Don’t apologize for taking time off. Remove email notifications from your phone, or delete the whole app if you’re brave enough.

That said, if you do ruminate on work matters while on vacation, taking a peek at your inbox might be worth it, she adds.

“Sometimes you’ll feel better because you can see that nothing is burning,” says Dr. Ollier-Malaterre.

Brian Brown long went with the standard out-of-office-template, trying to imbue it with a quiet sense of “No, really, I’m actually not here.” It usually didn’t work.

When co-workers received his out-of-office email, “The next thing you get is a second message that’s, like, ‘Hey, but I really need this,’” says the 33-year-old, who works for a tax-software company in Lehi, Utah.

He bulked up his notes, enclosing details about his whereabouts (his hometown in Southern California, a Tim McGraw concert, camping with no cell service). He wove in facts about the destinations. He noted why the canyons he was traipsing through on a recent day off reminded him of tax compliance.

Rather than messages demanding work, colleagues and clients now chat with him about his travels. He feels more connected to them, and seen as a person, “not a 24/7 robot,” he says.

The away message can be a thrilling canvas for office workers with poetic souls. Aaron Konter, a one-time aspiring screenwriter, joined the advertising industry hoping to do the creative writing he had long dreamed of. Instead, clients wanted the work done their way. Supervisors slashed his copy.

Then the Atlanta-area resident discovered the freedom of the out-of-office email.

“I didn’t have to get it approved by anyone,” he says. “I could just be myself.”

Subject line of one recent note: “Aaron is OOO (Baby Baby),” referring to Smokey Robinson’s and the Miracles’ 1960s hit. In others, he riffed on how addicted we all are to technology and implored the recipient to create a vision board to try to manifest what they’re seeking from him. He signs off with “Love, Aaron.”

“This is me,” he says of his away messages. “And if you don’t like it, that’s OK.”

Some out-of-office messages hit a nerve. I heard from an entrepreneur who was outraged by an automated reply from a vendor saying he was surfing the coast of France. Meanwhile, the entrepreneur and his team were rushing to wrap a behind-schedule project that required the vendor’s help.

To avoid having your message land poorly, use language that assumes you don’t know the recipient well and that they have more power than you, says Erica Dhawan, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based leadership consultant and author of a book about digital communication.

Keep your note to two or three sentences, because being brief signals you respect people’s time, she says. Include an emergency contact and when you’ll be back. But feel free to hedge, publicly sharing a date that gives you some buffer time upon returning.

If you still have trouble turning on your vacation responder, help awaits. Iceland’s tourism-marketing office recently launched an online campaign starring three horses who clomp across a giant keyboard in western Iceland, majestic waterfalls flowing in the background. The gibberish their hooves type is available for anyone to use as an out-of-office reply.

Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, the head of the marketing unit, assures me that the out-of-office templates available on the Visit Iceland website were truly generated by the horses, though humans proofread them to ensure no swear words in any language accidentally made it into messages.

The horse babble sends a message, she says, and that message is: “I’m on my vacation.”

Going all out, with an equine twist or not, just might do the trick. After all, Ms. Davis—the career consultant who spammed thousands of her contacts with the away-message misfire—came home from two weeks in Hawaii to just a couple dozen emails.

“They let me have that vacation,” she says. “Without really bothering me at all.”


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Electric Cars and Driving Range: Here’s What to Know

How far can an electric car really go on a full charge? What can you do to make it go farther? We answer these and other questions that EV buyers might ask.

By Bart Ziegler
Wed, Nov 29, 2023 7 min

Many people considering an electric vehicle are turned off by their prices or the paucity of public charging stations. But the biggest roadblock often is “range anxiety”—the fear of getting stuck on a desolate road with a dead battery.

All EVs carry window stickers stating how far they should go on a full charge. Yet these range estimates—overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency and touted in carmakers’ ads—can be wrong in either direction: either overstating or understating the distance that can be driven, sometimes by 25% or more.

How can that be? Below are questions and answers about how driving ranges are calculated, what factors affect the range, and things EV owners can do to go farther on a charge.

How far will an electric vehicle go on a full battery?

The distance, according to EPA testing, ranges from 516 miles for the 2023 Lucid Air Grand Touring with 19-inch wheels to 100 miles for the 2023 Mazda MX-30.

Most EVs are in the 200-to-300-mile range. While that is less than the distance that many gasoline-engine cars can go on a full tank, it makes them suitable for most people’s daily driving and medium-size trips. Yet it can complicate longer journeys, especially since public chargers can be far apart, occupied or out of service. Plus, it takes many times longer to charge an EV than to fill a tank with gas.

How accurate are the EPA range estimates?

Testing by Car and Driver magazine found that few vehicles go as far as the EPA stickers say. On average, the distance was 12.5% shorter, according to the peer-reviewed study distributed by SAE International, formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers.

In some cases, the estimates were further off: The driving range of Teslas fell below their EPA estimate by 26% on average, the greatest shortfall of any EV brand the magazine tested. Separately, federal prosecutors have sought information about the driving range of Teslas, The Wall Street Journal reported. Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The study also said Ford’s F-150 Lightning pickup truck went 230 miles compared with the EPA’s 300-mile estimate, while the Chevrolet Bolt EV went 220 miles versus the EPA’s 259.

A GM spokesman said that “actual range may vary based on several factors, including things like temperature, terrain/road type, battery age, loading, use and maintenance.” Ford said in a statement that “the EPA [figure] is a standard. Real-world range is affected by many factors, including driving style, weather, temperature and if the battery has been preconditioned.”

Meanwhile, testing by the car-shopping site Edmunds found that most vehicles beat their EPA estimates. It said the Ford Lightning went 332 miles on a charge, while the Chevy Bolt went 265 miles.

That is confusing. How can the test results vary so much?

Driving range depends largely on the mixture of highway and city roads used for testing. Unlike gasoline-powered cars, EVs are more efficient in stop-and-go driving because slowing down recharges their batteries through a process called regenerative braking. Conversely, traveling at a high speed can eat up a battery’s power faster, while many gas-engine cars meet or exceed their EPA highway miles-per-gallon figure.

What types of driving situations do the various tests use?

Car and Driver uses only highway driving to see how far an EV will go at a steady 75 mph before running out of juice. Edmunds uses a mix of 60% city driving and 40% highway. The EPA test, performed on a treadmill, simulates a mixture of 55% highway driving and 45% city streets.

What’s the reasoning behind the different testing methods?

Edmunds believes the high proportion of city driving it uses is more representative of typical EV owners, says Jonathan Elfalan, Edmunds’s director of vehicle testing. “Most of the driving [in an EV] isn’t going to be road-tripping but driving around town,” he says.

Car and Driver, conversely, says its all-highway testing is deliberately more taxing than the EPA method. High-speed interstate driving “really isn’t covered by the EPA’s methodology,” says Dave VanderWerp, the magazine’s testing director. “Even for people driving modest highway commutes, we think they’d want to know that their car could get 20%-30% less range than stated on the window sticker.”

What does the EPA say about the accuracy of its range figures?

The agency declined to make a representative available to comment, but said in a statement: “Just like there are variations in EPA’s fuel-economy label [for gas-engine cars] and people’s actual experience on the road for a given make and model of cars/SUVs, BEV [battery electric vehicle] range can exceed or fall short of the label value.”

What should an EV shopper do with these contradictory range estimates?

Pick the one based on the testing method that you think matches how you generally will drive, highway versus city. When shopping for a car, be sure to compare apples to apples—don’t, for instance, compare the EPA range estimate for one vehicle with the Edmunds one for another. And view all these figures with skepticism. The estimates are just that.

Since range is so important to many EV buyers, why don’t carmakers simply add more batteries to provide greater driving distance?

Batteries are heavy and are the most expensive component in an EV, making up some 30% of the overall vehicle cost. Adding more could cut into a vehicle’s profit margin while the added weight means yet more battery power would be used to move the car.

But battery costs have declined over the past 10 years and are expected to continue to fall, while new battery technologies likely will increase their storage capacity. Already, some of the newest EV models can store more power at similar sticker prices to older ones.

What can an EV owner do to increase driving range?

The easiest thing is to slow down. High speeds eat up battery life faster. Traveling at 80 miles an hour instead of 65 can cut the driving range by 17%, according to testing by Geotab, a Canadian transportation-data company. And though a primal appeal of EVs is their zippy takeoff, hard acceleration depletes a battery much quicker than gentle acceleration.

Does cold weather lower the driving range?

It does, and sometimes by a great amount. The batteries are used to heat the car’s interior—there is no engine creating heat as a byproduct as in a gasoline car. And many EVs also use electricity to heat the batteries themselves, since cold can deteriorate the chemical reaction that produces power.

Testing by Consumer Reports found that driving in 15- to-20-degrees Fahrenheit weather at 70 mph can reduce range by about 25% compared to similar-speed driving in 65 degrees.

A series of short cold-weather trips degraded the range even more. Consumer Reports drove two EVs 40 miles each in 20-degree air, then cooled them off before starting again on another 40-mile drive. The cold car interiors were warmed by the heater at the start of each of three such drives. The result: range dropped by about 50%.

Does air conditioning degrade range?

Testing by Consumer Reports and others has found that using the AC has a much lower impact on battery range than cold weather, though that effect seems to increase in heat above 85 degrees.

I don’t want to freeze or bake in my car to get more mileage. What can I do?

“Precondition” your EV before driving off, says Alex Knizek, manager of automotive testing and insights at Consumer Reports. In other words, chill or heat it while it is still plugged in to a charger at home or work rather than using battery power on the road to do so. In the winter, turn on the seat heaters, which many EVs have, so you be comfortable even if you keep the cabin temperature lower. In the summer, try to park in the shade.

What about the impact from driving in a mountainous area?

Going up hills takes more power, so yes, it drains the battery faster, though EVs have an advantage over gas vehicles in that braking on the downside of hills returns juice to the batteries with regenerative braking.

Are there other factors that can affect range?

Tires play a role. Beefy all-terrain tires can eat up more electricity than standard ones, as can larger-diameter ones. And underinflated tires create more rolling resistance, and so help drain the batteries.

Most EVs give the remaining driving range on a dashboard screen. Are these projections accurate?

The meters are supposed to take into account your speed, outside temperature and other factors to keep you apprised in real time of how much farther you can travel. But EV owners and car-magazine testers complain that these “distance to empty” gauges can suddenly drop precipitously if you go from urban driving to a high-speed highway, or enter mountainous territory.

So be careful about overly relying on these gauges and take advantage of opportunities to top off your battery during a multihour trip. These stops could be as short as 10 or 15 minutes during a bathroom or coffee break, if you can find a high-powered DC charger.

Before embarking on a long trip, what should an EV owner do?

Fully charge the car at home before departing. This sounds obvious but can be controversial, since many experts say that routinely charging past 80% of a battery’s capacity can shorten its life. But they also say that charging to 100% occasionally won’t do damage. Moreover, plan your charging stops in advance to ease the I-might-run-out panic.

So battery life is an issue with EVs, just as with smartphones?

Yes, an EV battery’s ability to fully charge will degrade with use and age, likely leading to shorter driving range. Living in a hot area also plays a role. The federal government requires an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty on EV batteries for serious failure, while some EV makers go further and cover degradation of charging capacity. Replacing a bad battery costs many thousands of dollars.

What tools are available to map out charging stations?

Your EV likely provides software on the navigation screen as well as a phone app that show charging stations. Google and Apple maps provide a similar service, as do apps and websites of charging-station networks.

But always have a backup stop in mind—you might arrive at a charging station and find that cars are lined up waiting or that some of the chargers are broken. Damaged or dysfunctional chargers have been a continuing issue for the industry.

Any more tips?

Be sure to carry a portable charger with you—as a last resort you could plug it into any 120-volt outlet to get a dribble of juice.


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Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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