Have you ever emailed a coworker or client, not gotten a response, then later find out they were on vacation? Or, did you receive a vacation out of office message that didn’t say whom to contact about an urgent issue? Has that person ever been you? It’s ok–you’re not alone! Whether you simply forgot to set up your email auto responder because you were too busy dreaming about the fresh ocean breezes and sunshine you’ll soon be soaking up, or quickly wrote one in the minutes before your vacation started, there are a few best practices to keep in mind so there are no disruptions at work–OR to your vacation.
Our email systems are becoming more and more advanced, and many offer a scheduling feature so you can set up an auto reply ahead of time for specific start and end dates. A good rule of thumb so you don’t forget about it is to write it and set up scheduled dates to align with when you’ll be out as soon as your vacation request has been approved.
Include these 5 main elements
Let’s say you’re one of the millions of Americans who will be taking a week of vacation around the 4th of July. Here’s an example of a message that’s professional, helpful, and relatable:
Let’s take a look at the five main parts that make it successful.
- Subject line: A good subject line clearly communicates when and why you’re out of the office, so people understand your schedule at a glance in case they don’t click through to read the entire email.
- Greeting: Greeting and thanking someone for emailing you are other areas where you can begin to infuse a little bit of personality into your vacation out of office message, and make it sound conversational. If your vacation is close to Independence Day, you could make a more specific 4th of July out of office message by adding on something like, “Hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend!”
- Why you’re out of the office: Providing some context as to why you’re away, such as vacation or a conference, can 1) help make you more relatable and 2) give them clues as to just how accessible/inaccessible you’ll be. When people see that you’re on your annual family vacation and it’s your daughter’s first trip to DisneyWorld (for example), they’re more likely to understand you’re spending quality time with your family and be less apt to disturb you.You should also let them know when you’ll be returning–and more importantly–a timeframe for when they can expect a response from you. Setting this expectation upfront can make coming back from vacation and digging through your inbox a little less stressful.
- Contacts: There’s a good chance something urgent will come up while you’re away. To protect your personal time, list email addresses for 2-3 colleagues that can be reached in your absence if an immediate response is required. Just be sure to check with the colleagues you’ll be listing first to make sure they’re ok with it!
- Interesting reads, news, or events: Is there something notable happening at your company that you’d like to share? Examples could be anything from a webinar the business is hosting to a recent post on the blog (especially if you wrote it!). Give them something interesting to read and follow up with a question to engage them.
A word on “don’ts”
Personable, conversational out of office vacation messages should still remain professional and upbeat. People like to see your personality come through, which can make the message engaging and effective. However, be careful not to take it too far like these examples found on HubSpot:
- I am currently out at a job interview and will reply to you if I fail to get the position.
- I am currently out of the office and probably out-of-my-mind drunk. Enjoy your work week.
As with anything, use your best judgement on how much humor to use depending on your company’s culture and the industry within which you work.
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