It's often the last thing on your list just before you head out of the office. By the time you set up the out-of-office response, you're basically already on holiday mode.
But it's important to take the time to get both the words and the tone right. After all, dozens of colleagues or more may end up reading this email.
So what belongs in a good auto-response? If you ask company communications pros, the ultimate out-of-office email is the one that balance's your workplace's culture, combining the right amount of formality, humour and, above all, information about your absence.
"The out-of-office notice is a short message that conveys the most important things: the period you won't be available, when your contacts can expect an answer from you again, optionally the reason for the absence and, if necessary, a personal note," says corporate communications coach Kristin Koschani-Bongers.
What belongs in the message all depends on the context. For the subject line of the email it's sufficient to just say "out of office".
You can then begin with a simple greeting like "Hello and thanks for your message." "In the second line you write the most important information: When you can be reached again and, optionally, why you're away," Koschani-Bongers says.
Rather than emphasising that you can't be reached, the communications experts suggest using positive phrasing. Writing when exactly you can be reached again makes a better impression than just indicating that you're away: "I'm currently on vacation. You are welcome to contact me again from Monday 15th ..."
It's also important to tell people whether emails are automatically forwarded or if there's another colleague they can reach if it's urgent.
"If a colleague is stepping in for you, let the person emailing you know what their email address is and, if necessary, the telephone number," Koschani-Bongers says.
Asking that the colleague only be contacted in urgent cases should help filter out minor concerns.
Traditionally, you then finish off with something like "Best regards" – and don't forget to add your signature.
This is the framework for a more formal auto-response, and you'll probably want to adapt the tone to your corporate culture. If only colleagues you know well are getting this, do consider avoiding a dry tone with some humour – a GIF is always a quick way to liven things up.
"But always remember that your bosses can see these emails too," the expert warns. – dpa
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