8 Tips for using Outlook’s Out of Office Assistant

By | Dec 15, 2008

In the midst of the holiday season, where everyone is absent from the office at some point, the use of the Outlook Out of Office Assistant is widespread.  But, let’s face it, not everyone uses Out of Office wisely.  Here are 10 tips for making the best use of Outlook’s Out of Office Assistant.

  1. Don’t make the message too short.  Be sure to include all pertinent data about when you will be out and when you will return.
  2. Use actual dates in your message.  Statements like “I’ll be out next week” can be confusing.  Is this last week’s message or this week’s?  Use actual dates so even if you forget to turn the assistant off, people will know when exactly you are out and when you’ll return.
  3. Spell out the months in your dates.  This is especially important if you have international clients or colleagues.  1/2/2009 could be January 2 or February 1, depending on where you live.  Go ahead and use the long dates, January 2, 2009.
  4. Always give alternate contact data.  Tell people who to contact if they need an answer before you return.
  5. Keep things clear and concise.  Don’t let things get confusing.  If there are multiple people to contact depending on the client’s need, put them in a bulletted list so folks don’t get confused.
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  7. Leave off personal details.  People don’t need to know that you’re going to be away from home for a month to attend the birth of your grandchild.  You don’t need to let people know your home as well as your office is empty.  Remember, whatever you put in your Out of Office message could be going to strangers.  Don’t include anything you wouldn’t be comfortable with strangers knowing.
  8. Don’t give your cell phone number.  Unless you really want to be fielding calls, don’t give your cell phone number.  Give them an office contact who can call your cell phone if it is really is important.  Let someone triage the calls before they come to you while you’re out.  If people can contact you directly, believe me. they will.
  9. Include your return date.  These days, not everyone is a M-F worker.  So just saying that you are out one week doesn’t tell people when you’ll be back.  In addition to the dates you’ll be out, include the date and time of your return to the office if it is known.

The Outlook Out of Office Assistant is a great tool.  Just remember to use it wisely to give clients enough information, but not too much.

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3 Comments so far
  1. Barbara Swafford - Blogging Without A Blog (3 comments) December 19, 2008 2:26 am

    Hi Jodith – Great tips. I agree it’s important to spell out the date for things. We often have someone saywrite “next Wednesday” and unless you get the date you don’t know if it’s two days from now, or the following week.

  2. Jodith (189 comments) December 19, 2008 3:32 pm

    Hi, Barbara. Thanks for the comment.

    Yes, I must admit to being guilty of this in the past. I try to be careful now and spell out exactly when I’m going to be out of the office and when I’m returning.

    Remember, everyone, this applies to your away messages on your voicemail as well.

  3. Amy - Laptops With Mobile Phones (1 comments) August 25, 2010 8:05 am

    The tip about the full date is a really good one – it’s so frustrating to get an ambiguous date on an autoresponder.

    Great post!
    Amy – Laptops With Mobile Phones´s last blog post ..Free Toshiba Laptop

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