‘Out of Office’ emails put to good use

Email is still the foundation of modern business communication and we use it all day, every day (even weekends and evenings for some). While some are lamenting its use and hailing its demise, the rest of us still use it because everyone we deal with still uses it. And it’s getting worse – we ask our students (the future generations of business leaders?) to use it as their main form of communication too.

That’s not what I’m writing about here – I want to discuss how we use our email when we’re not at work … the ‘out of office’ assistant. Whether you use it to cover your two week holiday or (like me) when you’re attending a Conference or workshop, you need to ask yourself if you use it to it’s fullest advantage.

Looking at the volume of ‘out of office’ I receive each week the messages are all the same: “I’m away until then, contact him/her for urgent response.” No one really wants to know you’ve booked two weeks holiday in somewhere warmer than they are.

Why not be clever with it, use it to your advantage, let your out of office email response do some free marketing for you:

  • “On Monday March 26th, 2012 I am attending/running the XYZ workshop (location, organiser, link) and will respond to your email on my return. If your query is urgent please contact …”
  • “I am presenting at the XYZ Conference in [somewhere sunny] (link to research and/or Conference website) on March 26th, 2012 on [subject area] and will have intermittent email access during the day, etc.”

Not only does this inform the sender you are unavailable, but why you are not available and where you are (self promotion!). This informs whoever is trying to communicate with you that

  • you are considering their needs by setting the out-of-office response,
  • you are considered a leader in the [subject area] and are sharing this knowledge/research,
  • you are staying current and learning from others from attending or running workshops or training sessions,
  • you are investing in your own development,
  • etc

How about using these with students? What about …

  • setting up an out of office response each evening/week/weekend which covers an element of the current assignment, posing a further question or providing a quote or link to extra reading/research they may find interesting?
  • using it to provide extra revision questions that the students will not get from class or the VLE (this will also show you who is interested in getting better marks)?

For me it’s about using the resources available and, just because I’m not available for a period of time, doesn’t mean the students or colleagues should suffer in the response they get – while it may not answer their query directly it does at least show I have an interest in them and have gone to the effort of saying why I am not answering them directly (quickly).

How do you currently use your email out of office assistant?

Photo by Taylor Simpson on Unsplash