In a world drowning in email, praise be for the break in the clouds that is a quirky out of office.
You won't be the only person in such a rush go on holiday that you dash off a generic run-of-the mill out of office signposting all urgent enquiries to your already over-worked colleague. But would you ever write a humdrum and forgettable article for your intranet? Of course not. So why do so many people fall into the trap of writing a bog standard out of office? What if you put as much effort into your out of office as you did with any of your internal comms channels?
I'll tell you what will happen; you'll stand out and so will your content. So here's three things you can do to make your next out of message your best yet.
1. Make it personal
Do you want to be known as dull and uninspiring or creative and memorable? A good out of office should be an extension of your personality. See it as an opportunity to really sell your personal brand.
I've been writing eye-catching out of offices for some time now. I'm always surprised just how many people read them, especially if the opening sentence is unexpected.
I'll often say what I'm doing on my day off or where I'm going on holiday. I've asked people to tweet me book recommendations for when I'm on holiday… which is a sneaky way of signposting people to my Twitter account (where I share A LOT about working for the Royal College of Nursing). Another opportunity to build both my personal brand and networks.
My Twitter handle? Oh, it's @matt_batten1. Thanks for asking!
2. Showcase your organisation's culture
Give your audience a glimpse of what it's like to work for your organisation. Are you away from your desk because you have a flexible working pattern? Attending an interesting project meeting? At an away day? Spending time with your family? Tell your audience! It will give them a glimpse of your organisations values and while you're at it, signpost your internal audience to where they can get more information.
I work a nine day fortnight and I shout about my day off in my out of office. I also share a link to our smart working policy and tell colleagues to talk to their manager about it because it'll do wonders for their work-life balance.
3. Tell people what you're working on
Use your out of office to tell people what you're working on. Give an update and link to a news story for more information. If you're the go-to person for a project then use every opportunity to engage people in your work. Add a call to action if appropriate. For example, I lead on our employee engagement surveys so I'll add a reminder to complete the survey or add a link to our employee discussion forum. I never knowingly miss an opportunity to communicate important messages.
But most of all, make your out of office stand out from the crowd. You'll make someone's day and quite frankly, it's worth it for that alone. But if you're still looking for inspiration, here's mine from when I went to the spy capital of the world. Enjoy!
***FOR YOUR EYES ONLY***
Agent Batten is currently deep undercover in Berlin, spy capital of Europe. His mission: to infiltrate the tourist scene, visit as many locations relating to Cold War espionage as possible… and report back. Think Charles Hawtrey in Carry on Spying rather than Craig Daniels in Casino Royale and you'll get the idea.
Short of being recruited into the KGB, Tinker Tailor Soldier Matt will be back at duty for a thorough debrief on Tuesday 7 August. Sources at the highest level of MI6 tell us that Our Man in Berlin will be tweeting top secret information from @matt_batten1. Following him and report any suspicious activity to George Smiley.
Agent Batten has set you a challenge: decode this message to find out what classic spy novel he's reading on holiday, and tweet him your answer. Name picked from Oddjob's bowler hat will win a Top Secret Prize.
Ready? Here it is: Fxqbvtg Lxm ur Exg Wxbzamhg
Contact Agent Jon for urgent enquiries.
Be seeing you…