Crafting an out of office message: Is there a right or wrong way to post one?

/OOO/: abbreviation for Out of Office.  

OOO on! Finishing up in the office before going away on the perfect trip or some well-deserved time off is exciting and relieving. In the height of holiday season, we contemplate how to craft an effective out-of-office message, as the repercussions of not getting it right, can shape a chaotic return to work. 

An ineffective OOO message can cause stress on your return to work, faced with a huge workload and angry peers or clients due to miscommunication. Therefore, nailing the art of an effective OOO is a simple solution for a smooth return to work and stress prevention. Find out more on how to increase your productivity and reduce stress at work after returning from a break here. 

That said, let’s look at the do’s and don’ts of OOO messages. 

Art of miscommunication: The don’ts of out of office messages

There are a few things you definitely want to avoid when letting senders know you are away from your desk. See below some advice on how to shape that all important OOO message:  

  • Don’t delegate control to a colleague without them knowing, ensure the member of your team agrees to be the contact and secondary email address whilst you are away and is prepared for a potentially larger workload. 
  • Don’t include an alternative email or your personal phone number in your OOO message – said Bonnie Dilber from Zapier – as people will use it! Respect your work-life balance and boundaries, as should others.  
  • Don’t be clumsy! In a means to uphold a professional manner even whilst you are away, ensure you proof your message, as it will most likely be seen by many. 
  • Don’t provide a date… but do provide a date. This is a is a heavily debated topic for OOO messages. Let’s talk about the date debate in more detail…  

The date debate 

There is a huge debate to whether a date should be provided in your OOO message, for example “Thank you for your message. I am on leave until 16th of July. I will respond to you then”. 

This message could be questioned in terms of effectiveness, as it provides clarity and allows for forward planning for the sender, however it creates a huge expectation on the return date as the responder to action all the emails immediately. 

“The big mistake many of us make is saying too much and overcommitting to a response by a certain date”-  HuffPost. 

Providing a date suggests a day which a response email will be sent or an action to be taken. Therefore, to avoid false promises, it is appropriate to state a return date, however reinforcing that the response time will be upon a certain period after that return will help disperse and manage your workload. 

With that said, let’s look at more tips on how to master a OOO message.

The art of out of office perfection 

We have spoken on the don’ts, now let’s talk about what you should include in your OOO message… 

  • Do give a reason for your absence for context to be informative – and we don’t mean go pinning where you are going on google maps! For example, annual leave, maternity leave or sick leave, to set the expectation for how long you will be away. 
  • Do give an alternative contact that can provide the sender help and support for any emergency and relevant enquiry, but remember to discuss the matter with the secondary contact and get permission first. 
  • Do keep the message concise, as senders will gather the necessary information at a glance. This will make your absence easy to understand.  

(fun fact – the human attention span is roughly 8.25 seconds which is officially shorter than a goldfish’s attention span of 9 seconds… so keep that OOO short and to the point!) Read the blog – The goldfish effect: An age of the eight second attention span to find out more.

An OOO message is something so simple but can cause so many issues if not shaped correctly. As such, perfecting the art of OOO messages is the key to surviving your office return. Join the conversation on LinkedIn, and share your thoughts on OOO messages!

Stop typing, your OOO is finished...

There you have it, you now have all the tips you need to master the art of writing a great OOO message and it’s something you probably have never truly thought about. By effectively writing an OOO message you will reduce stress, maintain professionalism and disperse workload on your return.  

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