Out-of-Office E-Mails: T.M.I. or too little?

by | Jun 2, 2009 | Writing Matters Blog | 1 comment

As the summer holiday season approaches, I've been collecting some of out-of-office e-mail gems:

  • The Aggressive Vacationer: "Thank you for your e-mail. I will be on vacation from July 21 to August 10. All e-mails sent to me during that time will be DELETED without being read. If you need me to read your e-mail, please resend it to me after August 10."
  • The My-Itinerary-Is-Better-Than-Yours: "I will be out of the country until Friday, March 28. You probably wish you were me, trotting round the globe, visiting France, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria–seeing the great sights of Europe and broadening my horizons–with the top down and the wind in my hair. Well, maybe I'll show you pictures when I get back …"
  • The Raised Consciousness: "I am in Nepal trying to go higher than a person should go.  I will be back on the 24th.  After that, I'll be transferring to the Marketing Group in Division 5 (San Antonio)."
  • The Obama-Elvis Fan: "I'm taking a post-election drive through the countryside.  Sorry I won't be checking e-mail while I'm at Graceland, but I'll see you back in the office very soon."
  • The Not-Very-Helpful Sick Guy: "I have the flu."

Required Information for an Out-of-Office E-Mail

You may be tempted to use your out-of-office message to rub your colleagues' noses into your fabulous vacation plans or blame your customers for the tidal wave of e-mail you'll face upon your return, but don't!  Instead, use your out-of-office message to set expectations, keep the ball rolling, and make your own life manageable when you come back. Here's a short list of must-haves for your out-of-office message:

  • How long you'll be gone. Use calendar dates, not just day of the week.
  • How often or whether you'll respond to e-mail or voice mails at all while you're gone. Knowing whether you'll respond at all during your time out of the office will help you colleagues and customers decide what to do in case of a work emergency, for example.
  • Who to contact for what while you're away. Provide specific names, e-mails, and phone numbers.
  • How soon you'll respond to e-mails when you've returned.

Please comment on this post to share your out-of-office favorites, or e-mail me and I will post them for you.

— Leslie O'Flahavan

(Thanks to Christine C. from Norway and Bonnie from D.C. for contributions to this post.)

Tags: E-mail

1 Comment

  1. Well, this out-of-office message beats all: “Sorry that I missed you. I am working on a high priority item and will not be able to respond to your inquiry until Jan 27. I appreciate your patience while I conquer another pressing matter.” Boy, do I feel unimportant with my little 9-to-5 job and eager inbox!

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