Writing out of office messages is certainly not the first thing that comes to people's minds when they're getting ready for vacation or for a few days off the grid.
Let’s be honest: it’s probably the thing they remember they forgot to do, after they’ve already left the office.
What people don’t realize is that out of office messages can serve more than the obvious purpose.
Why are out of office messages important?
Most of us brush off the importance of out of office messages, even though doctors and scientists tell us over and over again how crucial it is to disconnect from work - especially email - to keep a healthy work-life balance.
Studies show that taking an “email vacation” can make you less stressed and more productive. And yet, we forget about taking the first, obvious step - setting an appropriate out of office message to help us feel less anxious about work.
If you’re not replying to emails, even for a few hours, some people will start to wonder what happened to you and why you’re not getting back to them immediately. And your stress levels will go through the roof as soon as you realize your inbox is filling up with requests from clingy clients, demanding bosses or nagging co-workers.
On the other hand, you might argue that out of office messages could have a negative impact on your image as a “reliable and competent worker” or lead to missed business opportunities.
Guess what! It can actually be an incredible tool to do just the opposite!
Put some thought into your out of office messages
You can actually put some thought into your out of office messages and use them as an opportunity to engage, to promote and to connect with clients, colleagues and vendors, on a more human level.
Here are 3 tips to get the most out of your out of office reply (and samples to inspire you):
1. Use not only for vacations
Most people only write out of office messages when they’re preparing for a much earned 2 week paradise vacation or when they’re away for long periods of time.
However, an out of office reply can also come in handy when you’re working, but are temporarily unavailable:
When you’re traveling (for work)
When you have limited access to emails or wifi
When you’re at a company event
When you’re at a conference
I’m currently out of the office to speak at this incredible conference - [conference name/place] - with limited access to email, until [date].
If you happen to be there too, I’d love to connect! Feel free to stop by our booth ## or to attend my speech on [day] at [time] in [location].
In the meantime, I’ll get back to your email as soon as possible.
Have a great day!
Using an out of office reply is an effective way to ensure you’re getting back to people promptly, even if it’s just to tell them you’ll reply later, putting your contact’s and your own worries at ease.
2. Offer something in return
Instead of leading your recipients to a dead end, a better option is to share a resource that will speak to your audience. Think about the people who email you most and use your out of office messages as an opportunity to generate leads or to promote content.
I hope you’re having a great summer. It’s time for my annual vacation and so I won’t be able to respond to your email before [date].
If your request is urgent, please contact [name] at [email or phone].
In the meantime, did you know there will be a free webinar about [subject] on [date and time]? To make sure you don’t miss out, sign up to attend the webinar here [link to the webinar signup].
Thanks for reaching out! If you’re reading this, that means I’m currently on board of an airplane with no internet access.
If your question can wait, I’ll be responding to emails as soon as I land and have a decent wifi connection. If not, contact [name] at [email] or [phone] and he/she will take care of you in my absence.
Did you by any chance email me to know more about [your service or product]? Great! Embark on a journey through our latest client success story, exclusively available to you here (download link).
Thank you for your patience.
As you can see, it's easy to highlight an opportunity to collect leads in your out of office message.
3. Make it human and memorable
Over the last few years, we have grown accustomed to automated forms of communication. In fact, most of the times, we wonder if it’s an actual person on the other side or just another chat bot programmed to adapt its responses to fit the situation.
An out of office message can be the perfect opportunity to add a human touch to your message and to make it memorable for your recipients.
I’m not in the office today. And for a very special reason: I’m enjoying a family vacation to celebrate my daughter’s 5th birthday.
In honor of such a momentous occasion, I will not be checking emails until [date]. If you need anything urgently, please contact my wonderful assistant/colleague [name] at [email].
Have a great one.
When you receive this message, I'm probably indulging myself with a big bowl of delicious ramen on the other side of the world in Japan. I will be back to the usual espresso and donut when I return to the office on [date].
If you need immediate assistance, please contact [name] at [email]. I will not have access to email, but you can see what I’m up to instead @myhandle on Instagram and Twitter.
What is your dream destination?
Inspired? Out of office messages can help you in many different ways.
They can be great conversation starters, as your colleagues and clients ask you about the conference or your vacation and get to know you as a well-rounded human, rather than merely a coworker or a vendor.
They work as a courtesy to those trying to reach you and/or as a defense against losing business while you’re away.
Plus, out of office messages help you create healthier email habits. Once you realize that most emails aren’t really urgent, you will learn it's ok not to respond right away and to disconnect, once in a while.