Set An Effective Out-of-Office Message To Reduce Workload

Set An Effective Out-of-Office Message To Reduce Workload

It’s easy to leave a short and ineffective out-of-office message, especially when you’re leaving it on the eve of a holiday or a conference you’re excited to attend. Doing so however, just ensures more work upon your return.

Photo by makelessnoise.

Over at Ian’s Messy Desk, Ian outlines how to create a good out-of-office message. First, what does a terrible out-of-office message sound like? At the worst end of things the message simply tells the caller that you’re not there which gives them nothing to work with except that you’re unavailable to help them or answer their questions. Ian suggests including:

1. Dates of your absence. Let the contact know when you are out of the office. It helps them decide what their next step is going to be; whether to wait for your return or to direct their request elsewhere.
2. Reason for absence. I like to let my contacts know whether I am on a business trip or vacation. A business trip means I am connected to the office in some way and might be able to respond to a message. If I’m on vacation, I’m out of contact range.
3. Who to contact in your absence. I try and leave contact information for alternate contacts when I am out of the office; a minimum of one up to as many as are needed.

The emphasis on the last entry is ours, most of the phone calls you receive while you’re out of the office will be for matters that will need to be resolved while you are gone. If you leave proper contact information for the people who would most likely be able to resolve issues that crop up while you are gone, you’re all the more likely to return to the office with those things done and taken care of. Leaving an ineffective message creates a mountain of work for you to wade through when you return.

For more tips on leaving an effective message check out the full article at the link below. Have a tip or trick for leaving a good out-of-office message or any other aspect of preparing to be away from work? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

Tips for leaving a good out-of-office message [Ian’s Messy Desk]


  • One thing I do is make it clear in my vacation message that e-mail / phone messages will not be responded to, and that if the sender needs my personal attention to something that they should re-send the e-mail after I return back to work.

    This does two things..
    1. It encourages them to contact someone else if the matter is urgent.
    2. If the email is really something that has to be dealt with by me, having them re-send it after I return to work means it is less likely to be buried in amongst the 1000’s of other emails I received while I was on leave (which I usually either bulk delete, or archive to a folder until I’m ready to deal with them)

  • Another thing I do is set my out of office nice and early (eg: Friday morning before going on leave).

    That way people get a heads-up well in advance if they’re asking for something less immediate.

  • what’s a “caller?”

    I disabled my land line work voicemail long ago – filters out the less important requests… (if people really want you they will ring your mobile, no point them leaving a voicemail on your desk phone and then calling your mobile anwyay)

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