How To Write An Out-Of-Office Message For The Festive Season

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Whether you plan to take two days or two weeks of annual leave this festive season, make sure you do it right.

Doing it right means a complete switch off from all forms of workplace communication and learning to say no. No to responding to your manager’s WhatsApp messages, no to checking your emails each morning, and no to doing a “quick favour” for your needy colleague on a Wednesday afternoon.

Even at the best of times, it can be a challenge to de-stress and unwind, with your mind so often swimming with projects, deadlines, and workplace politics. In 2020, a year that has brought unprecedented levels of stress and uncertainty, it’s all the more important to take a proper break, spend time with your family, and rest and recuperate for the year ahead.

Setting yourself up for a calm, peaceful, and undisturbed holiday season starts with writing an appropriate out-of-office message. Unfortunately, global travel restrictions have rendered the classic out-of-office response all but redundant:

Thank you very much for your email. I will be out of the office from 21th-28th December and will have limited access to email. I will respond to your message upon my return. For anything urgent, please contact my colleague Jill, via Jill@example.com.

In today’s world, and particularly during a time when no-one is travelling, claiming to have limited access to your emails is a tad unbelievable. But your right to disconnect isn’t diminished simply because you’ll be spending the festive season at home in your pyjamas, watching re-runs of old Christmas movies, and munching on your favourite chocolates. Your out-of-office message simply needs a re-write – one that’s fit for the unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves and sets clear boundaries.

Top tips for writing an out-of-office message this Christmas

Most of the usual out-of-office rules apply, which include:

  • Accuracy – Be sure to double-check that the details you’ve included – particularly your annual leave dates – are correct, and remember to update the message if/when your circumstances change.
  • Keep it brief – No one needs a long, sprawling explanation of your holiday plans or detailed handover information that would be better off sent directly to the relevant people.
  • Give details of a suitable alternate contact – Who should people get in touch with if they have an urgent question/request? Make sure you inform your chosen colleague that you are directing queries their way.
  • Be engaging – A little extra charm and gratitude during these times probably wouldn’t go amiss.
  • Be professional – A personal touch within your out-of-office message is perfectly fine but be mindful of company guidelines and maintain your professionalism.
  • Be sensitive – In 2020, being sensitive and empathetic towards your colleagues and external stakeholders is of the utmost importance. Many people face spending the festive season away from their loved ones or else face other, potentially painful, pandemic-related challenges. The last thing these people need to read (especially when they’re still at work) is a jovial or gloating message about all the festive fun you’re planning on having.
  • Set clear boundaries – Be very clear that you won’t be checking emails or responding during your annual leave.

See below for an example out-of-office message:

Hi there,

Thank you so much for your email.  

I’m taking some time off between 21th-28th December to rest and recoup. I have every intention of packing up the home-office that currently dominates my kitchen table, which means I won’t be opening my laptop or checking my work emails during this time.

I will be sure to get back to you on 28th December. However, if you do need a response right away, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Jill via Jill@example.com who will be very happy to help!

 Many thanks, and best wishes for the festive season! 

The PASA Christmas Elf 

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