Summer is upon us, and with it a deluge of rain, kids on public transport, and out of office (OOO) replies. An out-of-office email is something you assume would be easy to write – you know precisely its purpose and what it needs to say. But, as with colleagues' leaving cards and appraisal feedback forms, it's often difficult to find the exact words.
It's not unfathomable that you spend more time crafting the perfect OOO than you do packing a suitcase, tidying your desk, or on the 10-hour flight to some far-flung holiday destination.
Here are some tips to help you write the perfect automated reply that won't end up going viral. Please let us know your own thoughts on the OOO in the thread below.
Specify the exact dates and times of your absence
Sounds obvious, but make sure you do set the exact times and dates; and make sure to get them right. You don't want to go on sabbatical to find people have been firing emails to you like paper planes the whole time you've been sipping piña coladas and "finding yourself" on the set of The Beach.
Likewise, it's tempting to set the date you'll be back lunching at your desk and avoiding difficult colleagues as "five minutes past NEVER" (for the lolz) but probably best not to.
Keep it short
The recipient of your OOO is inconvenienced by you having the temerity to be on holiday. You just screwed them. They don't care about reading anything
you have to say after the way you've behaved. Just direct them on to who is best to contact, not write a War and Peace-length explainer.
Warn your colleagues if you're redirecting to them
If you're going to write: "I'm away, but please contact Clare", then do let Clare know that you've basically ruined her life for the next couple of weeks. Clare is going to be up to her eyes in emails, drowning in overlong signatures, and spammed to death. She needs to know the fate that will befall her.
It's also a nice idea if you're going on holiday to bring a gift back for Clare, as a way of thanking her. Because who doesn't love a questionably culturally appropriated sombrero?
Understand that the word 'urgent' does not mean 'urgent'
People are very self-absorbed and egotistical. If someone is emailing you, it's because they want something. If they want it, then in their mind, it is urgent. Do not give people the opportunity to call or text you if it's "urgent", because they will do. They absolutely will do.
Don't try to be funny if you're not funny
"I'm on holiday! But let's hope when I'm back I'll be in a better mood than I was in that accounts meeting on Friday!!!"
"I'm not in the office. Sorry that you're getting an automated reply but if I was here you wouldn't get anything!!!!!!!"
Check for typos. Then check again
You don't want to get back to the office to find you have sent out multiple emails reading, "I appreciate your bust", instead of "I appreciate you're busy", as a friend of mine who once worked for an MP did.
And, even if it's not that extreme, it will still be embarrassing if everybody in your contact list cottons on to the fact you can't spell "logistical".
You can give detail, but don't brag, bore or overshare
Keeping it short is the best idea. But if you really want to tell the world why you are away, then do not brag, bore or overshare.
For instance, if you're going to one of the world's most beautiful islands for four weeks and not even paying for it because your in-laws are really rich and hahaha it's going to be amazing and you intend to spend the whole time on a beach pretty much naked 90% of the time with a tiny umbrella in a lot of pastel-coloured alcohol, then don't feel the need to share your fabulous good fortune.
People also do not want to read about: dead family members, colonoscopies, dolphins you'll be swimming with, the $$$ you're raising for charity.
Do you use Out of Office emails? If so, what do you write? What are the worst examples you've ever seen and the best? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the thread below.