10 tips for setting up out-of-office alerts without annoying your coworkers!

It’s officially summer and we’re all excited for our upcoming long weekends and vacations! This also means taking some well deserved breaks from work β˜€οΈ

I’ve seen dozens β€” if not hundreds β€” of out-of-office alerts… ranging from super unhelpful 🫠 to really entertaining 🀣 and even a few that were were actually useful πŸ‘

Today, I am going to tell you what a great out-of-office alert looks like so you can be that lovely colleague at work that doesn’t annoy everyone else whenever you’re taking the day off or going on a work trip. This will be part of my “The Cool Coworker” series where I share some collaboration tips and tricks 😎

πŸ—“οΈ Don’t block other people’s calendars when sending a meeting invite to let them know you will be OOF

  • Set up your calendar invite to show as “FREE” so that it doesn’t block up other people’s calendars (step-by-step instructions here)
  • Select “NONE” for reminders/alerts so that people don’t have to dismiss a pop up reminder saying that you will be OOF 18 hours before it happens
  • Select “NO RESPONSE REQUIRED” so you don’t need to receive an email about whether people have accepted or declined your invite (this tip is more to save your own inbox)
  • Select the “ALL DAY EVENT” option so that your invite is more out of the way and only shows up at the top of other people’s calendars instead of creating a meeting block in the middle of their workday
  • If you are only out for half the day, you can still set up an “all day event” but specify the subject name to say “AM ONLY” or “PM ONLY” to indicate whether you’ll be out in the morning or afternoon
  • If you are out for less than half a day (e.g. doctor’s appointment), don’t bother sending a meeting invite and simply block your own calendar and let your team know via email or IM when you will be back in the office and how they can reach you if it’s urgent (you can also update your Teams status)

πŸ’Œ Make it easy for people to get help while you’re OOF with an effective automatic reply

One of my pet peeves is seeing those OOF alerts that eloquently state “I am out of office with no access to email. Thanks.”

Please strongly consider making your OOF alert much more helpful so people don’t need to go searching around for who your manager or proxy is to answer their questions:

  • Specify which day you will be returning to the office (indicate time zone because others may not be based in the same city as you)
  • Include an FAQ with links to resources for more information related to your team or projects
  • Indicate who your proxy contact is (e.g. your manager or teammate who is not OOF at the same time as you)
  • Prompt the sender to follow up with you when you’re back (this puts the onus on them to follow up again if what they are trying to reach you about is still important at a later time)
  • Optional: Share your personal contact information if you want to give people a way to reach you in case of an emergency

TLDR for Calendar Invite

  1. Set up your calendar invite to show as “FREE”
  2. Select “NONE” for reminders/alerts for your calendar invite
  3. Select “NO RESPONSE REQUIRED” for your calendar invite
  4. Select the “ALL DAY EVENT” for your calendar invite
  5. Specify in the meeting subject title when in the day you will be OOF (if not all day)
  6. Don’t bother sending an invite if you will be OOF less than half a day

TLDR for OOF Alert (automatic reply)

  1. Specify when you will be returning to the office (include timezone)
  2. Include an FAQ/list of links and resources that are related to your team/projects in your OOF alert
  3. Indicate who your proxy contact is (make sure they are not OOF at the same time as you)
  4. Prompt the sender to follow up when you’re back

And there you have it! Follow these steps and enjoy your time off feeling confident that you didn’t accidentally annoy your teammates and stakeholders πŸ₯³

See an example / templates of what a great OOF alert looks like HERE and stay tuned for more blog posts from the “Don’t Be An Annoying Coworker” series! Thank you for reading and please share this with your team so that we can all work better together 🌻