When there’s just over 24 hours left before you punch out of your last working day in the office before your vacation, the excitement can take over and it’s easy to just leave a short and ineffective out-of-office message. We’ve all been there. But wouldn’t your life be so much easier if you came back to an organised inbox, rather than one that ensures more work upon your return.
According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), in order to have a “more enjoyable and meaningful vacation” you probably still need to stay connected, especially with friends and family. I mean for some people, avoiding your email is as difficult as avoiding your social media applications, but it needs to be done. So HBR suggests that planning before you go is key. Whether you’re completely disconnecting or checking your emails sporadically, you need a clear plan for how you’re going to be using your devices when you’re on vacation mode. The questions that HBR ask business workers to address are, “what’s the least amount of work connectivity I can get away with”, “what do I still want to use technology for while I’m away?”, “which accounts will I disconnect from?” and “what do I and my fellow travelers expect from one another?”
Once everything is planned, you need to prepare to leave. This is where your out-of-office reply is very important. You need to write a message that helps you avoid the dreaded backlog that typically awaits your return.
So, the classic example of “I am out of the office from “date” to “date”, is one that is widely used. But really look at it, it doesn’t tell your customers or employees much. Work doesn’t just stop because you’re out of the office. You need an out-of-office that highlights the below:
Dates of absence. People know how to address the issue this way. Is it something that can wait until your return or do they move on to another representative.
Why are you taking leave? Or simply put, should they know if you will be available to check your email from time to time. Is it personal? It is business related? A course?
Who should they contact in your absence? You must leave a name, designation, a contact number, as well as the person’s email address. This needs to be someone who is already aware that they will be receiving emails or calls that should be addressed to you.
Below is a good example of an out of office auto response.
I will be out of the office on vacation from Thursday, 19 January, returning on Thursday, 26 January. During this time, I will not have access to my email or be available for any phone calls. If you need any immediate assistance during my absence, please contact Corporate Communications & CSR Executive, Reem Al Tajer, on firstname.lastname@example.org or call +973 1774 6122. Otherwise, I will respond to your emails as soon as possible upon my return.
According to Inc you must only include relevant information. There’s no need to let them know what course you’re doing and where. Being positive is something that Inc also highlights, as according to a Wharton study conducted in 2007, the positive attitude in an email had a significant impact on others and on the workplace. A couple of kind words goes a long way, so adding that Reem, in the above example, is capable, not only reflects well on Reem but also on the readers to know that they can trust her.
The right out of office etiquette isn’t difficult if we take the time to really prepare. So as the New Year welcomes itself, make sure that your next vacation is properly planned for!