At some point, out-of-office emails lost their meaning. All too often, when someone receives an automated response, they may read and understand the first part — that the person they’re trying to reach isn’t at work — but choose to ignore the second, and arguably more important part, about when they can expect to hear back from them.
Or, in some cases, the person receiving the OOO message assumes that it applies to everyone except for them. Either way, instead of accepting and respecting the fact that this person won’t respond to their email until they return to work, these impatient folks continue to reach out to them, expecting an immediate response — even regarding things that aren’t remotely urgent.
So how do you get people to stop pestering you while you’re away? According to one career coach, the key is adding a personal detail to your OOO email. Here’s what to know.
Why people ignore your out-of-office message
While some people work for companies that require all employees to use the same canned out-of-office email whenever they’re away, others — including freelancers and other self-employed individuals — are free to compose their own messages, tailored to their needs and situation.
If you fall into the second category, career coach and therapist Brandon Smith suggests staying away from generic messages like “I’ll be OOO until [insert date] and will respond to your email when I return,” which he says are too easy to ignore.
“When I see that, I assume they are at home and took a day to clean their apartment,” Smith recently told CNBC.
How to write a more effective out-of-office email
Instead of going with one of these formulaic automated responses, Smith recommends including a personal detail in your email, as a way to establish more of a boundary while you’re away.
That said, there’s no need to include a long explanation of your absence, or any private information; in fact, it’s best to avoid both. Short and simple is the way to go.
For example, if you’re going on a trip with your family, Smith suggests the following wording, per CNBC:
“I’m going to be on a family vacation on [insert dates]. If you need immediate assistance please contact [information of colleague]”
When someone receives that email, they’ll have to determine whether their question or problem is more important than your time off with your family. “You’re a jerk if you trample on that,” Smith told CNBC.
Of course, some people genuinely don’t care what you’re doing or who you’re with, and will continue to contact you whenever it suits them. But ideally, having some insight into what you’re doing and why you’re not in the office will be enough to make others think twice about following up.
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