How to Make Your Out Of Office Message Count

How to Make Your Out Of Office Message Count

Right Now with Nick Smith (Linkedin/Twitter)

What I’m reading: The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

What I’m watching: the trees, from a hammock

What I’m listening to: the sweet sounds rolling banjos and mandolins at the 45th annual Festival of the Bluegrass (related ELGL article, believe it or not)


Well, I’ve written about a dozen Morning Buzzes now, so I can’t complain that this is the second time that I’ve been scheduled to write one while my out of office message was on.

So since it’s Friday, and I don’t really want to write a heavy-minded tech article while from a field (there’s plenty of future for those), I thought we could take a second to talk about auto-replies.

In fact, here’s all I ask of you: make them count.

Every week I send a note to an office mate and get something back that says, “Hi, I didn’t change the default greeting because when I’m not around I feel comfortable letting Outlook speak for me, and who cares anyway?”

But see, I’ve met a lot of you, and I know you can do better. For the purposes of putting my money where my mouth is, here’s mine:

Yeah I’m not putting my boss’s email on the internet; I would like my job to exist when I return to Maryland.

It has everything:

  • why I’m gone
  • when I’ll be back
  • 10 point Verdana for optimal screen readability
  • the seeming promise that I’m not just going to delete your email
  • an alternate contact and guidelines for contacting them
  • even a flash of gratitude
  • and it isn’t boring.

It’s not hard. It can be anything from something thoughtful (“I wish I could help you”) to an image of the place you’re going (this is especially effective when you’re traveling for business). You don’t have to think of some sort of knee-slapper. In fact if you’re going to go for funny, remember that this could literally go to anyone, from a resident to the President, so try and keep it to a sensible chuckle.

Even that might be a bit much.

But imploring you to make your out of office message count comes with a bit of backyard philosophy, too: BE OUT OF THE OFFICE.

Whether you’re at a conference or the beach, if you’ve taken the time to schedule time away from your desk, there’s a reason. Mindfully and actively be in that moment as much as you can. I’m begging you. I’m guilty of it too, but all we can do is improve together.

If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you spend your days literally serving the public. It’s easy to get lost in other peoples’ (very real) issues. If you don’t take some time away from it when you get the chance, you’re not going to be able to give people your best in the now or in the future — and you’re certainly not giving yourself your best by trying to stretch between two places.

And with that, I believe it’s time I took my own advice. This music isn’t gonna listen to itself, after all.

Just remember: enjoy your time in the office, and enjoy your time out of the office.