The martial art of emailing

Xin Fu: The Martial Art of emailing: “out of office” message

With the beginning of the holidays, many of you are going to leave the office for a deserved holiday. It’s time to review some principles concerning the “out of office” message. Note that those remarks may also be applied when you leave the office for a long business trip.

Here is a check list of what you should mention in an “out of the office” message

  • Start by thanking the sender for his/her email.
  • Indicate  the duration of your absence starting with the first day and specifying the day of your return
    • Use an international date format in order to avoid misinterpretation.(8 July 2010 and not 08/07/2010)
    • Include the day in the date
  • Precise what will happen to the incoming mails
    • Will it be forwarded to a colleague? ( Inform your colleague and check his availability)
    • Will you read them while out of the office? if yes, how often ?
    • Will it be treated when you return?
  • Emergency option
    • Indicate the contact information (phone and email) of the person who could help or dispatch the issue/request in your absence.
  • Salutations and your name

The style of the message should be short and concise and you should never include any personal statement ( you never know precisely who will read your message). If you work in an international environment, write your message in English. If needed, write a second message bellow in another defined language (do not mix languages).

Here are some samples of “out of office” messages (you can just replace the blue text by your own text)

Sample 1

I will be out of the office from (Day, Date) returning on (Day, Date). I’ll be checking my emails (indicate frequency: every day, once a week…), but will have limited ability to respond. If you need immediate assistance or information please contact (delegate’s name, e-mail address, phone number).

Best regards,
(Your name)

Sample 2

Thank you for your email. I am out of the office from (Day, Date) to (Day, Date) and therefore unable to treat your request.

I will review your message upon my return on (Day, Date). For urgent matters, please contact (delegate’s name, e-mail address, phone number).

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,
(Your name)

Last but not least, if you are the recipient of an a “out of office” message and dealt with the issue yourself, please be polite and notify it by email so that the person who received your email while away knows if he still need to take action.

Update: download these samples here and place them on your computer for reference when needed.

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