Putting Your Out Of Office Message To Work

July 22, 2015

shutterstock_211716220It’s summer time.

Time for vacations.

Time for the inevitable Out of Office message.

Who still uses Out of Office messages?

It should come as not surprise, even to millennials, that there are still a lot of people that use email. Yes, there is a trend towards text messaging, instagram and snapchat. While I don’t discount the idea that these are viable options for communications there is still a need to use email in almost every business endeavor these days.

This is not a post to argue the validity and need for email. While you may abhor email … the fact is that most of the people you work with – customers, partners and co-workers still use it. Help them with a well crafted Out of Office message.

So, what can you do to make it better?

Recently I have been noticing a few incredibly bad out of office messages. My simple thinking is…if you are going to bother setting this up why not do it right.

There are at least a few points to cover on a well crafted Out of Office message should include:

  1. Inform
  2. Re-Direct
  3. Educate
  4. Entertain (optional)

What is the value of an Out of Office Message?

The most simple OOO messages help people know WHERE you will be, WHEN you can be reached (in case of an emergency) and WHO you have delegated tasks in your absence. I recommend having a little fun when possible.

You might hear some people say OOF which is old skool for Out of Facility.

Instead of sending the standard “Thank you for your email” message use your OOO message to share more salient information to the recipient of your note.

Pro Tip: Thanking someone for their email is not a best practice.

Try just stating the facts and letting people know what they can do in your absence.

Example OOO Message:

I’m away from the office from July 18th to July 23rd. If you need help with marketing support contact Joe Smith (email / tel), if you have a question about sales please contact Jane Doe (email / tel) and if you have something that I need to address please expect a delay in my response.

I will be attending the Widget Trade Show. If you will be there please look me up or visit our booth.

Vacation Options – As a point of comparison I wrote a post for Yahoo that the Personal Branding Blog helped get published. The post was about Planning the Perfect Working Vacation and has a few additional points about being out of the office.

Why Bother?

As I mentioned in the Yahoo article everyone can carry their office in their pocket and ALWAYS be on. While this is often possible there are benefits that a OOO message can help you in a few ways you may want to consider.

  • Sales Engagement – Let people know what they can do with you and your business.
  • Self Service – Share links and options for people to seek their own answers.
  • Connecting in the Wild – If you are attending or speaking at a trade show…let people know.

Note: You may have the option to set an internal audience OOO message and an external audience message. Use this option wisely. Internal people to your organization may need a different message and will be able to have access to internal links and resources. They will also understand your company acronyms.

Good Use Cases for OOO Messages

If you are still doubting the value of OOO messages consider these points:

  • What about if you are on an extended travel day?
  • What if you are at a trade show?
  • What if you are actually on vacation?

At these times you may not be able to connect or you may be focused on the task at hand. These are great times to use an OOO message to help your colleagues, your customers and your partners know where you are, when you are available and/or who they can contact in your absence.

I can tell you from personal experience that I like it when people use OOO messages. I, like everyone else, like to have that instantaneous gratification of getting a response to a question. People that do this stand out to me as caring about my time and that my need for a response is not necessarily tied to their access to email.

These are just a few reasons to consider using an Out of Office message. If you have other use case examples please share in the comments. I’d also like to see your WORST examples of bad OOO messages. Some of them are downright sad and ineffectual. I’d also like to see your best examples.

OOO messages will not be here forever, but while they are…please consider using them wisely. See you on the road and enjoy your summer vacations. While you are away please take a few minutes to insure that you are putting your out of office message to work.

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