Oh, goody! It’s holiday season.
That means you’ll be spending quality — and, hopefully, quantity — time away from your desk, unless you have a Scrooge for a boss — or a Santa. (Yes, this column supports the elves in their fight to unionize.)
If you don’t want to be bugged by endless emails while chugging a jug of kombucha wassail, you will need an out-of-office message — a few well-chosen words that show you truly care about the people who are trying to ruin your holidays, while, at the same time, hiding the fact that you’d rather stick your head into a deep-fried Thanksgiving turkey than be inconvenienced by their incessant demands.
This is why the out-of-office message you really want to leave is a concise, “Get off my case,” or the classic, “Don’t bug me.”
This kind of refreshing honesty might have worked before companies starting shedding workers willy-nilly in a process we call “Elonization,” but this holiday season, it just makes sense to cover your heinie.
Alexandra Franzen can help. Her recent post on TheMuse.com, “Standard Out-of-Office Messages are Boring — Try This Instead,” offers a variety of options to replace the typical “I am out of the office and will respond to your email as soon as possible.”
No. 1: “Share exactly what you’re doing (and why)”
Let people know that how your vacation benefits their business.
Position your vacation as an opportunity to refresh and recharge. Explain that you’ll return from two weeks backpacking through the rainforests of Borneo “full of fresh ideas for my clients, like you.”
Even if the furthest you’d ever consider backpacking is to the nearest Starbucks, in the hope of catching their Black Friday closeout sale on pumpkin-spice lattes, an honest description of your vacation plans can be positioned as a positive.
“Sorry I missed your email. I’m spending the next two weeks on my couch, snacking and snoozing, trying to recover from 50 weeks of putting up with your nonsense. When I return, I’ll probably respond to your ridiculous demands. Until then, kindly put a sock in it. Bet there’s one hanging on your fireplace right now.”
No. 2: “Share a ‘while you’re away’ surprise.”
While it is true that “doctors put magazines in their waiting room to entertain their patients while they wait,” it is unlikely that your customers will be satisfied with a generic e-blurb and a subscription to Psoriasis Today.
Franzen considers “a worksheet, tool, video, blog post, checklist or resource list” as appropriate surprises. I agree.
“I won’t answer your email for quite a while,” you could write, “because I’m having a crazy great time on my vacation and will probably forget whatever ‘critical emergency’ you are blathering on about by the time I get back, if I get back, but here is a surprise for you. Attached is a video of you canoodling with that cute marketing intern at last year’s holiday party. This surprise video will be sent to everyone in the company, or, for a modest fee, made to disappear forever. Your choice. Credit card information required. Bitcoin not accepted.”
No. 3: “Share answers to commonly asked questions”
“If you tend to receive the same questions, over and over,” Franzen writes, “use your autoresponder as an opportunity to dish out answers instantly.”
Good idea. Here are a few:
Is your work really slovenly, overpriced and usually delivered too late to be of any possible use?
Will you take my proprietary information and sell it to the highest bidder?
Is it true your technology expertise is limited to plugging in a Mr. Coffee?
Will the hours you bill me have no relation to reality or common decency?
Will you outsource my project to a team of rebel cable installers in Kazakhstan, who will take my data and disappear into the Ural Mountains?
Will you badmouth me and my company on social media?
Are you a robot?
The great thing about these FAQs is that they can all be answered “yes.” Except that one about your technology expertise.
No way you can plug in a Mr. Coffee.
If the effort required to write a successful out-of-office email is more than you can handle this holiday season, consider spending your allotted time-off at work. Answering emails is no fun, but with no gift buying, no artery-clogging dinners with the fam and no budget-busting vacations to weird places where the locals hate you and the weather is sure to stink, a “stay-in-office” vacation sounds a lot more restful.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.