Writing an away message for work vacation
February 24, 2005 5:07 AM   Subscribe

"I will be out of the office this week. If you need immediate assistance, screw you." I need help writing and recording away messages for email and voicemail!

I work in a very small office, and simply put, no one wants to have to deal with the people I have to deal with. Okay, so I deal with a lot of people who are very needy and demanding, but my co-workers are right - just about anything they come up with can wait a week. I would love some suggested scripts for a tactful message that says, essentially, quit your whining and be patient
posted by ferociouskitty to Work & Money (13 answers total)
All you can really do is leave a nice, courteous message stating that you will be out of the office with no access to voicemail and email and glad to address any issues upon your return. That's pretty much what we do in our office and people tend to respect that, even the annoying clients.

Although, if you have an admin, or another person on your team working closely with that client, I'd check to see if they would be fine having you assign them as the contact person.

We've all had those demanding, need things to be done yesterday clients who aren't satisfied unless you're babysitting them, but if you can get away with not leaving a contact person, they really should (in an ideal world) respect your right to have a peaceful, non work-related week off. Good luck.
posted by zombiebunny at 5:21 AM on February 24, 2005

I start with:

Thank you for your email.

I am out of the office until 12th March 2005 and will have no access to my emails or phone during that time.

and then if there is a contact person:

In case of urgent issues, please contact blahdeblah on blah.de.blah@company.com. Otherwise I will respond to your email on my return.

and if you don't, then just say:

I will respond to your email on my return.

and leave it at that.
posted by ralawrence at 5:31 AM on February 24, 2005

In our office, we append any out of office message with something to the effect of, "If you have an emergency, please contact so-and-so." This will depend upon your clients' ability to respect and define the word "emergency."
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:39 AM on February 24, 2005

Would your boss be okay with any messages coming to him/her? I have similar issues, and if the requests come to my boss while I am away, she can redistribute the truly urgent tasks to others *as necessary*, as she has the authority to do that.

If your boss is on the same wavelength as your co-workers, an email forwarded to him/her from the client saying "I need this now", could get a response like "ferociouskitty is really the best person to handle this as she has all the details about this job/task/question etc. so you will have to wait for her return." However, your boss may end up redistributing the tasks to just the client off of their back, if they start really pestering, and you may end up doing cleanup when you return.

This is the message I use:

Hello there,

I will be out of the office until <date>, returning on <date>. I will not have access to voicemail or email during that time.

If you have urgent <job-related> needs, please contact <boss name> at <phone> or at <boss email>. Otherwise, I will be happy to respond to your message when I return.

Have a great <amount of time that you will be away>!

Best regards,


On preview - ralawrence and Medieval Maven beat me to it - and in shorter answers too! d'oh! Either way, hope this helps.
posted by melissa at 5:41 AM on February 24, 2005

I like to say I'll be traveling, out of town, or out of the country (even if I'm not), so people don't call my coworkers and ask if there is any way to reach me.

Which they do.

With shocking frequency.
posted by Kellydamnit at 5:46 AM on February 24, 2005

Please, please, please do not use the "I will be out of the office until date" sentence. It is not clear about whether that is the day you will be back or if it's the last day you will be out. I recommend "I am out of the office, and will be returning on date."
posted by Plutor at 7:01 AM on February 24, 2005

Your OOTO message should identify three things-

- When you're out.
- To what degree you'll be in contact while you're out.
- What someone should do in an emergency.

The last part is tricky. If you work for some kind of agency or as an account exec, you should always have a backup identified on your email, as you need to make sure your clients' needs are met. If not, the proper thing to put in is often nothing- people in back-office jobs often do not get "unsolicited" requests, so people who contact them often know who to go for backup.

Also, large corporations sometimes discourage identifying people by name, as it allows people to blanket a company with email requests to fish for employee contact info.

If you DO identify someone by name, MAKE SURE THEY KNOW YOU'RE DOING SO. It always irks me when someone I don't report to or who doesn't report to me puts me on their OOTO message.
posted by mkultra at 7:22 AM on February 24, 2005

My personal favorite comes from a faculty member at IMD in Switzerland (yes, I wrote it down to remember it):

I will be out of the office from xxx to xxx and will probably only check my email and voicemail once during this period. Hope this is good enough for you!

It's the only time I have ever forwarded an out of office email to others for a laugh.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:24 AM on February 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

What zombiebunny and ralawrence said. I find that needy clients generally do not respect the word "emergency" as in "if this is an emergency, please contact X." I would leave it at "I'm out of the office, please leave a message and I'll deal with it on my return on (date)". Further, if a real emergency does arise, most clients are smart enough to call the main office number and ask for help.
posted by redfisch at 7:54 AM on February 24, 2005

Thanks Plutor, for pointing out my typo. What I meant to type was:

I will be out of the office starting <date>, returning on <date>. I will not have access to voicemail or email during that time.

Sometimes at my work people set their message before they are 100% gone (so they can get some work done quietly before they leave), so stuff sneaks through to them (obviously, this is not a good trick, as they often end up doing the work anyway). I find that stating clearly when you start not being available and when you return (and therefore are available) helpful. My apologies for the confusion!

I second mkultura's point of making sure that the person knows you are identifying them as your backup. That's just good manners! :)
posted by melissa at 7:58 AM on February 24, 2005

Dispense with the vacation responder entirely. Send a proactive message to all of the people who will actually care that you're away and tell them you're away.

This will give those people the message that you're thinking about them, and the opportunity to get things resolved before you leave.

Plus, if you're on any mailing lists, it'll have the side benefit of people not wanting to bash your head in when they get your vacation bounces everytime they post to the list.
posted by Caviar at 9:19 AM on February 24, 2005

I work at home, and the biggest problem I have is with with clients who insist on talking by phone. I program and write during the day (heavily), and taking & receiving calls is very disruptive and often wastes my time. Phone People tend to spread into 5-10 minutes what would only take 45 seconds to answer via E-mail, where I could even freely research issues if necessary.

I have never been sure what's the best way to communicate on voicemail my bias against the telephone. My regular clients happily communicate with me via E-mail, but there's always busybody Phone People who tend to take offense at me not accepting their calls. I've never really figured out the right voicemail message to record asking them to expect E-mail contact only. Unless I tell them specifically that I don't check messages, they often leave one anyway expecting a callback.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:55 AM on February 24, 2005

Rolypolyman, maybe just flat out state in your voicemail message that you won't be checking your voicemail often/limited access... and the easiest way to get through to you is via email? You're literally never going to win with some of these people, but take the steps to make it as easy and convenient as possible for yourself, even if it's being totally blunt.
posted by zombiebunny at 10:59 AM on February 24, 2005

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