The Out of Office reply email doesn’t have to be dull and dry – you can use it to show a different side of you and your business…
‘I’m sorry, I’m out of the office until Sept 1. I’ll reply to all emails when I get back.”
We’ve all seen this message before – and have probably written it ourselves. But what does it actually tell anyone? Apart from the date you’ll be away, not much.
Like email signatures, Out of Office replies are areas of everyday communication that often aren’t being used to their full potential.
And when you’re running a small business, you need to take every inch you can get.
Let’s build up your message from the ground up. The basics you’ve got to include are the dates (and time if possible) you’ll be away. This means any time you’re not going to be able to respond. You should include in this the time you’ll be back at your office desk – eg, “I’ll be contactable from Monday, Sept 1 at 9am.”
You’ll also need an alternative contact – preferably someone who you’ve briefed on what needs doing.
To add a bit of humour, while also giving your colleague a thank you, why not big them up a bit. Try: “Jon Smith – who is sickeningly good at his job – will be handling all my work until I return.”
You could stick with the basics, but to make the message a bit more personal or to convey additional information you could include a few more details.
For example, you might be on maternity leave or have a family bereavement. The message you leave for these will obviously be very different, with a more playful one for maternity leave (“Currently working on a new project which involves teaching a human to walk, talk and think”), and a more serious one for a bereavement (“I’ve recently suffered a family bereavement and so will be away from work for the foreseeable future.”)
You might also want to mention whether you’ll actually be checking your emails or not. This will let people trying to contact you know whether to wait a day or two to see if you respond, or to instead contact your colleague right away.
Add a bit of colour
You don’t have to stick with a straightforward message. There’s a new trend for using images instead of text – something like a ‘Closed’ sign or a gif of a cat going on holiday.
You could even make your message into a poem or a joke to give people a smile. Just make sure that it all fits into the tone of voice of your company. You don’t want to be using comedy gifs if you’re a funeral home.
Use the space
All space on messages should be utilised to its fullest – and the Out of Office reply is no exception.
After your message, you can include details of a course you’re running when you get back, your latest blog post to keep people entertained in your absence, or links to a new product.
If you get a number of specific requests, such as details of a new product, then why not try and answer the inquiry in your Out of Office reply. For example, you could include:
“If you’re contacting me for more details about our new business loan, these can be found here.”
Keep it going
Out of Office replies don’t just have to be used for when you’re out of your office. If you’ve been away for an extended period you’ll no doubt have hundreds of emails, if not more, to go through.
So why not create a second Out of Office reply saying “I’m back in the office today but have so many emails to get through I’ll be of no help to anyone until at least 2pm. But if your enquiry is urgent I’ll squeeze it in.”
This way, people won’t be annoyed if you’re not getting back to them right away.