Then I'll be gone: please contact my palmPhoto: Walter Hodges / Jetta Productions / Tetra Images RF / Getty Images
Phases without electronic communication - especially without emails - reduce our stress level and make us more productive. Nevertheless, we often hesitate to take the first step and formulate an out-of-office notice that sets clear limits for our time-out. But such communications can be an excellent lever for your own success. Those who go on vacation, travel to a conference or experience one of the great moments in life - such as the birth of their own child - can thus strengthen social connections with colleagues, customers or suppliers.
Michelle Gielan Right Arrow
is an expert in positive communication. As the founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research, a research facility of the US consulting firm GoodThink, she wrote the bestseller "Broadcasting Happiness". She was previously a TV news presenter for CBS News.
When people feel positively connected to us, they are more likely to engage in business with us and are more willing to work with us to solve problems. This connection comes from the feeling that you really know someone. However, most people opt for the "safe" variant of the vacation notice. This simply notifies the recipient that they will not be in the office by a certain date and that the other should please contact a colleague if they need to contact someone immediately. Sometimes only one additional line is needed so that "sufficient" becomes "advantageous".
Make the point clear
Tell the recipients of your out-of-office message something that they can use as a starting point for a conversation the next time they come in contact. Why are you not in the office during this time? What do you learn at a customer service conference? Where are you going on your vacation and what are you particularly looking forward to? Here are two sample emails - the first my husband actually used.
Hi, I am celebrating my fifth wedding anniversary and enjoying a summer vacation with our four year and four month old children. In honor of such an important holiday, I will not read my email until [date]. If you need anything urgently, please contact my wonderful assistant Jenny at [email address].
Hi, I'm attending a conference in Atlanta this week with other health care advisors. I would like to get to know new methods there in order to support my customers even better. During this time I can only read my emails now and then. If you have an urgent matter before Monday, [colleague] will be happy to help.
E-mails like this can be a great way to start the conversation when colleagues ask you about your return from the conference or after your vacation. They will get to know you as a versatile personality and not just as a colleague.
Offer additional information
You can also name a source of information in your mail that offers the recipients added value. In selecting such an article or link, keep in mind the people who send you the most emails.
Hi! I hope you enjoy the summer. It's time for my annual vacation. I look forward to answering you on my return on [date]. In the meantime, I would like to draw your attention to this article for our customers. In it, you will find some tricks to get the most out of your CRM system. Using even one of these hacks will save you hours of time. If you need urgent assistance while I'm away ...
more on the subject
Honest out-of-office email: "I'm so fed up. We'll talk in January" By Maren Hoffmann
Self-Management: Finally ProductiveBy Alice Boyes
Newsletter Lead Forward: Are you too cowardly to really go on vacation? By Antonia Götsch
Self-Management: Time Makes You HappyBy Ashley Whillans
Last summer I tried the following text for the first time - and received an overwhelmingly positive response.
Hello! In our latest study, we found that vacations are good for the brain and can improve work performance. That needs further research! Therefore I will not be in the office until [date] and during this time I have only limited access to my mail. If you need urgent assistance, please contact [my colleague]. Have a nice summer! Michelle Gielan
Customize your message
Some mail programs allow the sender to compose one message for internal recipients and another for people outside the company. With Gmail, it is possible to send automatic reply messages only to contacts in your address book instead of to people you may not even know. These simple functions give you greater flexibility, for example by giving your colleagues more personal information than external contacts.
External Recipients: My husband and I have just had our second child. Therefore I will be on parental leave until [date]. Please contact [colleague] if you need support during my absence. I look forward to getting in touch with you again after my return.
Internal recipients: Little Lucy stormed into our world on [date]. Mark and I couldn't be happier! I am on parental leave until [date]. During my absence, please contact Sheri Parks for all marketing matters and Emily Smith for PR related inquiries. And here's another photo of baby Lucy and her big brother Cooper. I look forward to celebrating with all of you when I get back.
In the summer I copied my husband's out-of-office notice and rewrote it for my purposes. The reactions were extremely positive. I had wonderful conversations with contacts and customers about summer vacation plans, weddings and the importance of consciously enjoying all these special moments with children while they are still young.
The trigger for this was my new, improved Out of Office reply. It gave me the much-needed chance to be completely there for my family on vacation and to maintain more intensive contacts with other people after my return. © HBP 2019
This article appeared in the June 2019 issue of Harvard Business Manager.Icon: The mirror