Follow These 6 Steps Before You Write Your Next Out of Office
This week marks the peak of the summer holiday season. With the 4thth With the July bank holiday falling on a Wednesday, out-of-town trips that normally take a long weekend are now spread out into a 10-day window that has already begun.
So we already know the classic out-of-office e-mails: “Off the network for the next three days.” “No internet access until next Friday.” “I will reply to your e-mail as soon as I return to the office.”
Out-of-office replies are considered a modern business imperative, but there are right ways to let everyone know you’re on vacation and unavailable – and wrong ways to rub your amazing tropical adventure in everyone’s faces. The latest trend is detailed in a recent post on The Atlantic about disruptive out-of-office communication:
“Thanks for your message. Email received between [these dates] will be deleted from this server in eight hours. Please resend your message afterwards [this date].”
Consider the implications: Not only will this “cog in the email machine” refuse to participate in the “I’ll spend two days ‘digging up’ my email backlog when I get back” carousel, but he or she also makes a statement about the importance of the email you are composing. Makes it Yes, really have to be sent? If so, wouldn’t it make more sense to send it when you know the recipient is in the office?
In this scenario, the responsibility lies with the sender of the email. And research shows this brave person might be on to something. In 2012, a study at the University of California, Irvine found that office workers who were denied access to their email for a full week had a significant reduction in stress levels. An analysis of business emails by a Duke University behavioral economist found that about 1/3approx of messages did not need to be sent at all, while only 1/10th considered important enough to be read within five minutes of receipt.
A proposed law in New York would make it illegal for companies to email or instant message employees when those employees are scheduled to be off. Indeed, last year France enacted such a “right to separate” law. We may not be there yet, but there’s a way to get off-the-office etiquette right this month (and all year). CMIT Solutions has compiled six of the most relevant methods to do just that:
Most offices that use Microsoft Outlook as their primary email/calendar/contacts app allow sharing between employees, making it easy for everyone to schedule meetings and quickly see when their colleagues are available and when not. Therefore, make sure to update your Outlook calendar by creating a fixed appointment marked with the status ‘Away’ for the days when you are away.
There is nothing worse than getting an Outlook notification every day telling you that your colleague is out of the office. So only send the Outlook appointment for your out-of-office status to people with whom you work closely or who you report to. Just make sure you turn those periodic reminders off, okay?
This task can be completed in most versions from Outlook by clicking Tools > Out of Office, then entering text, date and time, and address book rules – for example, for security and privacy reasons, it’s best to only send autoresponders to internal contacts, as spammers can be out of office messages to check whether an email account is active or not. You also have the option to send just one out-of-office reply to each unique address. That way, your close contacts won’t be inundated with 100 out-of-office reminders when you’re a productive email writer or recipient.
Of course, include the length of time you’ll be away, along with when you’ll be back in the office (or when people can expect a reply from you). If you know you just can’t get through the day without keeping your inbox clean and tidy, even on vacation, consider including a version of that — just remember it’s always better to underpromise and then too much to deliver. For example, if you plan to check your email once a day, maybe mention the fact that you’ll be doing it once a week or every few days. Don’t forget contact information either for yourself in case of an emergency (just be careful who you give your mobile number to!) or for a designated replacement who can take care of urgent issues in your absence.
The modern out-of-office reply should serve two purposes only: 1) a polite and professional reminder that you will be unavailable for a certain period of time, and 2) a helpful redirect to someone else in your organization who can answer a question or solve a problem. The memories of your five star accommodations, or your adventurous day trips, or your sessions on the white sandy beach, or how disconnected you plan to be while you’re away? These parts are never necessary. If you’ve never heard the term “modest swagger,” you’ll know what it is when you get those smug answers from the office about sailing the New England coast or hiking the Alps.
This applies to both everyday email use and the out-of-office template. Consider this example: “Hello, I’m from the office [date] until [date]. If you need assistance in the meantime, please contact [name + info.]” In this way we can enjoy all summer vacations whether we are in the office or traveling.
Looking for more ways to increase efficiency and increase productivity? Need help using Microsoft Outlook to manage calendars and contacts? Do you have a favorite funny, poignant, or creative message you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it. At CMIT Solutions, we take care of IT so you don’t have to — no matter when, where, or what device you’re working from. Contact us today for more information.
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