Go ahead, we know you have it memorized: how many days until your summer vacation arrives? Blame it on a plethora of weddings, the irresistible wanderlust bite or the dire need to get far, far away from your manager — but getaways during this season are plenty for many. While the weeks leading up to takeoff day might feel tireless as you balance your daily duties with prep for being away from your desk, there’s nothing quite like checking off the very last item on your pre-travel checklist: “Set your out of office email.”
Cue the applause! Run toward the elevator! Get outta ‘here!
But before you copy/paste your traditional message, career experts challenge professionals to be a tad more creative with your OOO. Especially as the dynamic of the working world continues to lean casual, an edge of fun is often welcomed. “Out of office has evolved as work cultures have evolved. Many work cultures have become more casual and this includes how people communicate. Out of office is part of office communication, personality, and workplace culture,” explains career coach and expert Mary Camuto.
Try these tips on matching your excitement for your getaway with your email the next time you head off on an adventure:
Give information – creatively
Everyone knows when they receive a bounce-back what they’re getting: you’re not available, for whatever reason, but you’ll be back online at some point, on some date. For emergencies, click — er, email — here. The specifics are still important to reiterate, but you can be playful as long as you’re not offensive, Camuto says. One way to do this is by adding descriptive words that illustrate where you’re traveling to — which is likely to make some people reminiscence or laugh if they’ve been there, too.
Camuto gives this as an example: “I am off to Italy for a two-week vacation and while interested in your message, I will be busy exploring the Amalfi coast and testing the pizzas. If your issue is urgent, John Smith is standing in for me. If you decide to leave your information, I promise to call you back after [date] — and will also share the best pizza locations in Southern Italy.”
Remember your audience
It’s hard for us to think about it too, but once-upon-a-time, email wasn’t the most prominent form of communication. Workplace expert Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D. says the shift toward digital discussions for both business and personal means our out-of-office messages now blur the line between the two. This means keeping in mind your audience will work in your favor — especially since some colleagues or managers might be put off when they receive a sarcastic return message. One way to make sure you’re keeping it light-hearted but tactful by adding some humor. Without treading over dangerous waters that could be offensive — throw in a joke to soften the OOO.
Hakim suggests: “Looking for me? I’m away from my desk, but I’ll be sure to respond within x hours. Or: Why did the chicken cross the road? (I’ll let you know when I’m back at my desk. Thanks for your patience while I’m away.).”
If you know your clients and vendors will be appreciative of a sassy away message, but your jealous manager who never takes a vacation wouldn’t — investigate your settings to modify internal and external email addresses. This allows you to be cheeky, but also air on the side of caution.
Publicist Wendy Gordon likes to have a little levity when she’s away from work since it gives others a glimpse into her personality. One example she uses is quoting a well-known celebrity or saying that nearly everyone will understand—and perhaps smirk at. “Thank you for your message. I will be out of the office from [dates]. Of course, I will be checking messages, albeit temporarily, without my usual immediate response obsession. I will also have my cell, so feel free to call or text at [number] if it’s urgent. In the immortal words of Arnold, ‘I’ll be back.’
Get to the point
Ever receive a daunting, lengthy, return message that you have to page through to digest? Here’s the deal: even if you’re high up on the totem pole and there are various people who will take on your workload while you’re gone, it’s better to be clear and direct, according to Hakim. Designate one person who will field inquiries to the appropriate person and then be honest about why you’re out of the office — and why you’re not available.
Hakim suggest something along the lines of: “Hooray! I’ve taken a much-needed break. (If you see my boss, please thank her for me!) I’m taking this time to disconnect and recharge, but I’ll be back in the office on Tuesday, August 5th If you need help sooner, my colleague will be happy to assist. Contact her at [number].”