One thing I love the most about modern life is the internet and digital technology. One thing I hate the most about modern life is the internet and digital technology!
Back in the day, there used to be clearly defined geo-political and social locations. You enter Zone A. Then you’re down for work, Zone B for studies. Zone C for socialization, etc. However, the internet, digital technology, and God-damn smartphones have made those boundaries not just blurred, but it has removed them completely.
You leave the office on Friday evening, but your emails, and work can follow you to your weekend social events with family and friends. Heck, if you’re not strict with your boundaries, they follow you right into the washroom.
Out-of-Office (OOO) Emails
There are those of us who, thanks to our positions and influence in our organization’s pecking order, have the leeway to tell our contacts – hold on, I’m unavailable right now. I’ll respond to you on such and such a working day.
At such positions, you can set an auto-reply to your new emails – something popularly referred to as Out-of-Office (OOO) emails – to let contacts know you’ve received their email but you are unavailable right now to attend to them. The email goes further to give details on when they should expect a reply from you.
Granted, it is quite a bossy flex to be in such a position and have your contacts wait on you to reply. However, there are some mistakes even the boss people make on such OOO emails. They are as follows:
- The OOO Abbreviation: Granted, the triple ‘O’ does sound cool – almost as cool as James Bond’s Double-O-Seven – but not many people will catch the drift in the first instance. Putting the OOO abbreviation on those out-of-office replies might likely lead to confusing the recipient, who might then follow up with a clarification email. That is exactly how someone works themselves into piles of emails to respond to on the first day of resuming work. So don’t be cute; just type out Out-of-Office if full.
- Failure to Indicate When You’ll be Back to the Office: Fine, the auto-reply OOO emails say you’re currently out of the office, but when are you coming back? It is equally as important as letting your contacts know that you’re currently out of office.
- But what if it’s an Emergency? Sometimes urgent things happen at the most unexpected times. Whatever reason the contact might be reaching out to you for could be critical. In such a case, you need to let them know how they can reach you if they’re absolutely certain that it is an emergency situation. Failure to do that might lead to huge losses and sometimes loss of lives. So be sure to leave an emergency number where they can reach you if it is absolutely necessary.
- Appointing a Temporary Contact Person: Before you do #3 above, consider the fact that it might not be a good idea to share your phone number with everyone who emails you. Some people really don’t know how to respect boundaries and may just start calling you unprofessionally. It might be a good idea to designate a Personal Assistant (PA) who will be picking up your calls and taking down notes in the event of an emergency. Only PA can then reach out to you and brief you on the happenings, and you decide if or not to reach out to the given contact.
- Sharing Too Much Info on Your Whereabouts: It should be enough to send out an auto-respond 000 message. However, the message doesn’t need to contain details of your whereabouts. You might be on vacation but don’t tell them where exactly. Just that you are currently unavailable at the office, and when you expect to be back, period.
The above are the top OOO best email practices. However, don’t forget to specify exactly what defines an emergency. Otherwise, someone will ram through that boundary with issues that could wait until your return to the office.
Also, try not to sound so generic in your OOO emails. Yes, we understand you are very busy, but try not to use the template OOO emails. At the very least, you have Chat GPT at your disposal to help you come up with some refreshing OOO emails.