Administration is as much about keeping people informed as it is about doing the tasks. One area that constantly surprises me is the cavalier use of OOOs; the email reply that is the Out Of Office. Often, you’ll send an email to a colleague and, in return, receive an automatic message back that runs something along the lines of, “I’m out of the office; I will deal with your email on my return”, or “I’m now on annual leave for two weeks.” Whilst it is important to signpost that you are not available, you will note there is no ‘can-do’ approach in the example replies given above. When precisely will you return? And will you be able to deal with my email then? Who can I contact while you are out of the office? If you care about the person emailing you, if you want to present a professional image, then it isn’t difficult to give some thought to the out of office message. Be a FRIEND to your out of office recipients: F – Forewarn – If possible, let your main colleagues/clients know beforehand if you are going to be away on holiday for any stretch of time. Courteous forewarning a few weeks in advance enables people to plan in advance for your absence. R – Refer – Where possible, give an alternative named contact that can assist in your absence. Be sure to make sure their details are correct. There is little more embarrassing than missing that crucial underscore in an email in your haste to get out the office door on a Friday evening. If you happen to be available on the phone, but are just not in the office, then be explicit and ensure you give your contact details. I – Intention – Detail when you intend to deal with the email, if it differs from your actual date of return. You ought to make your client and colleague feel like their email is the most important, so give a clear indication as to when you will be able to read and respond to it. E – Expected return – Detail precisely your expected return to work date, even if you are only away for an afternoon and especially if this differs from when you would intend to reply. N – Nobody else – If you are self-employed or have nobody else to refer the query on to, then specify this. In this case, make sure you are especially clear about when you intend to respond to the email. If you do not specify that there is nobody else to assist, it could send mixed messages to the emailer, who may be wondering if there is someone else to contact in your absence. D – Deactivate – Remember to deactivate your out of office when you return. As I like to say, ‘simple rules for simple fools’ and by following these simple rules, you’re less likely reveal the fool that you want to keep hidden inside of you.

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