The holiday season is about to begin, and we will all soon be enjoying some vacation time. But with the exception of statutory holidays, business carries on, and your business associates need to know if and when you’re available. In our Email Writing Essentials workshop, we teach you how to use your out-of-office notification effectively to communicate your absence any time you’re away. This helps you manage expectations and helps your clients and colleagues avoid the frustration of expecting a quick response while you’re away. If your autoresponder is clear, complete, and gives your readers the information they need, they will be grateful.
What information should you include in your out-of-office email and voicemail? This depends on your role in the company and the industry you’re in. Consider these six ideas when you think about what your network needs to know:
- The dates of your absence, and especially the date of your return. I always appreciate it if the writer spells out the dates (I’ll return Tuesday, January 3rd instead of 01/03/17). Be precise-avoid saying you’ll be gone for two weeks or returning next Monday. Instead, say you’ll return on January 3rd.
- Who to contact for an urgent matter. An out of office message might offer contact information for someone who can handle an emergency in your absence. This gives a sender with an urgent issue the ability to move forward. If you work in a large company and have a few staff members on your team handling different areas, include a list of relevant names, email addresses and phone numbers.
- If you’ll be checking your inbox. Let people know if and how frequently you’ll be checking email (once a week, once a day, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, etc.) and when they can expect a response to urgent requests. Of course, this means you have to follow through as promised.
- The times you’re not checking your inbox. As you’ve set office times already for your inbox, you may want to provide a direct phone line for anyone who has any emergencies or urgent matters that you need to tend to.
- The reason for your absence. This isn’t always necessary, but it might be a good idea to let people know if you’re on vacation or on a business trip. If you’re at a conference or taking a course to improve yourself by building skills or knowledge, explaining this in your out of office message only builds your credibility.
- Make sure your message is complete, concise and correct. Use white space and bullets if needed. Your reader will always appreciate being able to quickly scan a message to find the information they’re looking for.
Here are some examples:
I will be away until Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017.
I’ll be checking email occasionally and will have limited ability to respond. If this is an urgent matter, please contact Jane Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org (222 333-4445)
Have a wonderful holiday season.
Thanks for your note.
I’m away at a plain language conference from Monday, November 28th to Friday, December 2nd. I will respond to your email when I’m back on Monday, December 5th.
If you’d like to speak to someone right away, please contact Francine Melody at 222 333-4444.