Although the weather here in Germany is not particularly summery at the moment, summer vacation will officially begin this week in some German states. Scores of vacationers will be leaving their desks, and while they are away, their mailboxes will slowly fill up with emails. Unfortunately, those who are sending these emails do not always receive a notification indicating that the intended recipient is out of the office. Meanwhile, some default out-of-office notifications are downright strange, such as the ones shown here. While these kinds of notifications are funny, they do not fulfill their intended purpose! Mareike Heutmann, who is responsible for Office Management at MailStore, has addressed this issue and provided tips for drafting out-of-office messages that help keep business running smoothly:
Although we have now entered the age of electronic mail, finding a solution for properly announcing your absences is still just as important as it was in the days of snail mail. After all, you usually make sure to have a solution in place for snail mail – for example, you ask someone to empty your mailbox while you are on vacation, or you inform the relevant parties when you change your address. You need to do the same for your electronic mail.
Most email programs come with an automatic out-of-office messaging feature that can be activated or deactivated as necessary. These kinds of features are very practical, since you only need to create the ‘core message’ once as a template and can then access it at any time with the press of a button. But what should you include in this message?
The ideal Out-Of-Office Message
Simply writing ‘I am not here’ will not be very helpful to most of the people who are writing to you. Instead, it would be more helpful to include information that would allow those people to make sure their message is received. After all, they are not out of the office, and they have something important to communicate. Your out-of-office message should contain the following core information:
- How long you will be gone
- Whether someone is answering emails on your behalf while you are gone, or whether you will respond to emails once you have returned
- Whether there is a contact partner who can provide assistance in the meantime; if so, provide their name, phone number, email address, and position
- If you correspond with international business partners, write the message in several languages!
It is particularly important to properly announce scheduled absences. Your contacts will be grateful if you do so, since it will allow them to continue business communication. Who knows – if an alternative contact partner is able to provide further assistance while you are away, your to-do list might not be so large when you return.
When it comes to unscheduled absences, such as ones due to illness, it is more difficult to activate automated messaging – and most people find it unreasonable to have to come into the office just to do so. However, you can still find a reasonable solution for these cases; for example, you can provide a colleague with access to your email in advance. Doing so not only ensures the availability of potentially important company data, but also allows that colleague to activate your out-of-office message on your behalf (since you have already saved it as a template).
Make sure to inform your colleagues of your absence in advance, as well as all of the business partners who you regularly communicate with via email!
You will find a good example of an out-of-office message below:
Thank you for contacting me. Unfortunately, I will not have access to my emails until xx.yy.zz.
For urgent matters, please email my colleague Jane Doe [title or area of responsibility] at firstname.lastname@example.org. She can also be reached at 01234/56789, and will be happy to assist you.
I will be able to respond to your message on xx.yy.zz at the earliest. Your message will not be automatically forwarded to one of my colleagues. Thank you for your understanding.
FIRST NAME, LAST NAME