How to write a memorable out-of-office reply for the holidays

Chances are, you’re taking at least one day off in the coming week. Here’s how, and why, to produce an out-of-office reply that will delight the people emailing you.

Most of us will take a break for the holidays. It might be a day, or maybe a week. Either way, you’ll have to set the “out of office” message on your email.

If you’re like most of the workforce, you stick with the basics:

“Thanks for your message. I’m out of the office for the holidays from Dec. 24-Jan. 2. I’ll respond to your message as soon as I can upon my return. If your message is urgent, please contact (INSERT NAME HERE).

“Happy holidays!

“(NAME HERE)”

It’s benign, and it’s safe. For many people, the example above adheres to “corporate guidelines.” In fact, some companies have templates for out-of-office replies.

If you don’t have to adhere to corporate guidelines (strictly), please consider a little creativity with your message. Here’s why:

• You’ll take folks by surprise. Few people use the creative out-of-office message, although they are more popular than a few years ago. So it gives you an opportunity to zig when everyone else is zagging.
• You’ll get some laughs. Most folks go for the laughs with their out of office. Even if you’re not inherently funny, you’re bound to get a laugh or two. And this time of year, who couldn’t use a good laugh?
• You’ll be remembered. Countless people have commented on my creative out-of-office messages the last few years. It’s almost like a marketing tool for me. (I can thank Chicago-based PR executive Gini Dietrich for that one; she was the first person I noticed using out of offices effectively and creatively.)

So, how do you go about creating an out-of-office that will get you remembered?

Here are a few ideas to consider:

Include the basics

You want to be creative, but you also want to communicate the basics to those emailing you. Make sure to include: How long you will be out of the office; who to contact when you are out; and when you will return.

Get specific

Most of my out of offices aren’t necessarily funny, but they are pretty specific. For instance, when I took my family to the North Shore of Minnesota this fall, I explained in my out-of-office message what I was doing: “I’m heading up to the North Shore with my family to sit by a fire, drink coffee and read a book for four straight days.” Chances are, many of the people with whom you interact via email are interested in your life outside work—so tell them.

Go for one joke

Don’t get crazy here. The out of offices that work well go for one joke. If you try multiple yuks, you don’t have enough room (the message should be kept short), and you look like you’re trying too hard. One joke feels perfect. For example, when I went to Bayfield, Wis., last year for a wedding with my wife, my out of office went something like:

“I’m heading to beautiful Bayfield for a wedding this week. I’ll likely be either 1) On a boat, 2) On a beach, or 3) On a beach or on a boat with a drink in my hand for most of the weekend. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can when I return on Monday.”

Don’t get crass

People like funny; they don’t like crass. Avoid vulgarities and the urge to take your joke too far. You will regret it.

What approach do you take with your out-of-office messages?

Arik Hanson is principal of ACH Communications. He blogs at Communications Conversations, where a version of this article originally appeared.

(Image via & via)

This article appeared on Ragan.com in December 2015.

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