The official beginning of summer is still two weeks away, but with Memorial Day in the rearview mirror and most schools finished up for the season, summer is informally in full swing. Many families are planning their first extended vacations, getaways, and road trips of the year, which means that vacation autoresponses will start filling up our inboxes soon.
This tool is a must for any regular email user—and these days, who isn’t? But there are right ways to let everyone know you’re unavailable and wrong ways to rub your epic summer adventure in everyone’s faces. So before the season officially starts on June 21st, follow these five crucial tips to strike the right out-of-office note this month:
1) Update your calendar. Most offices that use Microsoft Outlook as a primary email/calendar/contact app allow sharing between employees, which makes it easy for everyone to schedule meetings and quickly see when their co-workers are and aren’t available. Accordingly, make sure you update your Outlook calendar by creating a standing appointment marked with the out-of-office status for the days you’ll be gone.
2) But be mindful of the details. There’s nothing worse than receiving an Outlook notification alerting you to the fact that your coworker is out of the office, each and every day that they’re gone. So send the Outlook appointment concerning your out-of-office status only to people with whom you work closely or to whom you report. In other words, make sure you turn those regular reminders off, OK?
3) Set up your autoresponder message. This task can be completed in Outlook by clicking Tools > Out of Office and then filling in the body copy, dates and times, and Address Book rules—for instance, for security and privacy purposes, it’s best to only send autoresponders to internal contacts since spammers can check out-of-office messages to validate whether or not an email account is active. You also have the option of sending just one out-of-office response to each unique address—that way, if you’re a prolific writer or receiver of emails, your close contacts won’t get inundated with 100 reminders that you’re out of the office.
4) And make sure you’re specific. Obviously include the time period of your absence, along with when you’ll be back in the office (or when people can expect a response from you). If you know that you just can’t get through the day without keeping your inbox nice and tidy, even on vacation, consider including some version of that—just remember that underpromising and then overdelivering is always better. For example, if you plan on checking emails once a day, maybe mention the fact that you’ll do it once a week or every few days. Also, don’t forget contact information, either for yourself in case of emergency (just be careful who you give your cell phone number to!) or for a designated backup who can handle pressing issues in your absence.
5) But not too detailed. The modern out-of-office reply should serve just two purposes: 1) a polite and professional reminder you are not available to be relied upon for a particular time period, and 2) a helpful redirect to someone else in your company who can answer a question or solve a problem. The reminders about your five-star lodging or your adventurous day trips or your sunny white-sand beach sessions or just how disconnected you plan to be while you’re gone? Those parts are not necessary.
To keep things very simple, consider this general out-of-office template:
“Hello, I’m out of the office from __ until __. I will only be available __; if you need help in the meantime, please contact __.”
That way, whether we’re in the office or out of it, we can all enjoy summer vacation.
Looking for more ways to enhance efficiency and boost productivity? Need help using Microsoft Outlook to manage calendars and contacts? CMIT Solutions can help. We worry about IT so you don’t have to—no matter when, where, or from what device you’re working. Contact us today for more information.