Over the Christmas and New Year holiday season I was reflecting that even though I work for one of the worlds largest IT companies, it amazes me how few of my colleagues can actually write a good Out Of Office (OOO) auto reply email message. As a result I was inspired to write a simple Out Of Office guide.
Firstly it is always good practice to state if you are Out Of Office on vacation or a business trip. If you are on a personal vacation the recipient should not expect a reply. However, if you are on a business trip then the recipient could potentially expect a reply if the matter is urgent.
Secondly, state when you will return to the office. Simply stating “I am out of the office” gives the recipient no timeline to work with. Are you out for the day, the week or the next 6 months?
Thirdly, provide alternate contacts (e.g. colleagues or manager) so if there is an urgent matter that needs to be dealt with in your absence there is a point of contact who can assist. It is also useful to check that these alternate contacts will not be OOO at the same time as recently happened to me with my bank manager.
Fourthly, consider including useful links to relevant FAQs or public websites to enable the sender to self service their request in your absence. This can be particularly helpful if you often receive emails where you reply with links to the same set of resources.
It is also useful to take a few steps outside of setting up your Out Of Office automatic email response.
Creating an appointment in your calendar and inviting your manager, colleagues and anyone you work with on a regular basis is always useful. However, please be careful to set this as a none blocking calendar entry. Otherwise, any of your colleagues who accept the calendar appointment will also appear to be out of office.
If you are going to provide colleagues as alternate points of contact in your absence it is always polite to check with them first so that they are not surprised when they start receiving emails. For any complex issues or important customers consider giving them a short handover so that they are up to speed.
Finally, make sure to set the date on which the automatic OOO message should stop being sent. This will prevent the OOO message being sent for days or weeks after your return to the office causing confusion for colleagues and customers alike.
Here is an example of a good OOO email message:
I am currently out of the office on vacation and will return to the office on Wednesday 2nd January 2019.
In my absence please contact:
- Jessica Lee (email) for Sales
- Nathan Summers (email) for Marketing
- Carl Mole (email) for Support
If you are looking for assistance with Microsoft O365 these links may be helpful:
Your message has reached my inbox and I will attend to it on my return.
Hopefully, this short guide has provided some useful guidance on how to write a great Out Of Office (OOO) message and we will receive some more helpful messages the next time we have a colleague, partner or customer who is out of the office.