Updated: Jun 28, 2020
I'm sure you've seen articles exhibiting unconventional out of office emails before, I've enjoyed every single one of them. Here's one of my favourites: Link
This post however is not to direct you towards hilarious memes, rather it's a little more personal. I've been adding a personality to my out of office emails since a few years now and thought it'll be great to share the reasoning behind it and also leave some of my (real) examples for your reference (in case you need a head start). But what exactly do I mean by "adding a personality" to your out of office emails?
The story behind:
Imagine (considering it's not doable during a pandemic) you're on your way to office on a regular day. You leave your home and probably meet your neighbour in the elevator, you chit chat for a bit, ask about their family and their weekend, then bid good day before walking towards your car. Probably your car wash guy greets you with a smile, you ask them how it's going as they put the finishing touches on your windscreen. As you drive out, your security personnel waves you good bye and you carry on with your commute.
You reach office at 9:55 AM, listening to some music (may be a podcast) on the way while cussing the regular lane cutters. Your valet has been expecting you, you hand over your keys, thank them for their service as they smile back at you and you proceed with your work. The day goes by, may be as mundane or as special as you would have wanted it to be, you meet people, share a laugh, brainstorm in meetings, gossip over the water-cooler, share a light moment with someone over a cup of chai, and then end the day with a farewell until the next day in just the same order as morning just in reverse.
Reasoning; the "why":
Socialising is so innate to humans that we don't even realise its depth until it's spelled out like above. We do see its effects when we decide to skip office for a day; your neighbour enquires if you left early the day before, your valet sounds concerned, your colleagues fill you up with the happenings from the previous day, even a few lane cutters wave at you; all for one reason, they've missed you! And now consider going away for days or weeks, wouldn't it be nice to leave a part of you behind for your fraternity?
That's probably why your out of office email needs to portray your personality!
Now obviously, not everyone from your community is going to send you an email (definitely not the lane cutters), your stories however can travel beyond boundaries and keep the social aspect alive even during your absence. Now more than ever, when our social lives have taken a hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching out to people and sharing stories (of joy or otherwise) becomes even more essential; we long for it. So how does one add their personality to their email?
Need a head start?
It's pretty simple actually, if you've been providing the reason for your absence, attempt clubbing it with your story that has led to your absence. Add in a flavour that depicts your mood so your readers can associate themselves with your feelings during this period; let them know what they can expect when you're back apart from the traditional "I'll go through my emails and reply to you", and let them know what you'll miss and what you're gaining while you're away. Your use of language and your fonts can fill in for your body language, and an occasional emoticon can make it even more expressive. If you're known for your humour, your sarcasm, your jolliness, your clumsiness, your skills & arts, or may be your likes & dislikes, then don't hold yourself back to incorporate these even when it's in a professional context; people love you more for who you are than for your work. And finally, don't hesitate to use pictures, they speak a thousand words.
So there you have it, a recipe for adding personality to your out of office emails; it probably doesn't make sense to call it out of office anymore since many are mostly working from home (where possible), so may be a good idea jazzing up the subject line as well. And don't limit your creativity to what I've mentioned, there's a lot more "you" than a few lines mentioned by me; let your personality flow. And if you feel like taking it up a notch, why limit it only to out of office emails?
Now the question may be, who do you send it to? Close colleagues who you call friends? Your team mates may be? Will your boss appreciate this? Does this fit with your organisation's culture? Is this a professional approach if a client is involved? What if it sounds goofy? What if I get fired? ... I've had all these questions myself, in-fact that's the reason why I started this only a couple of years back, and so far I've kept my job. I've not had a reason to have different flavours of out of office emails for my colleagues, organisation, and client; they've all read the same message and none have complained so far. I can't decide for you (the reader) however, you'll have to figure out your level of comfort based on the relationships you have with your circle. All I can say is don't hesitate to add a little bit of yourselves in your communications.
Here are a few of my past out of office emails along with the thought process behind drafting these:
1) Subject Line: Joy turns 3!
I drafted this email during my kid's 3rd birthday vacation. Notice the (not so preferred in a professional context) Comic Sans font to denote that this is a fun time off for me. I also made it very clear that I'm not going to break a promise by replying to emails (a call out to those who may be looking for a trustworthy team member in the future :P). And I added a picture of my vacation destination (which can be Googled) in case someone was curious to take a peak into my plans.
2) Subject Line: Out of office for an upgrade
I went a little sarcastic with this one by mentioning that I reply to emails based on the urgency "I" sense; that's a little bit of my behaviour where I prioritise heavily based on the importance of matters and not everything may need my similar level of attention once I'm back in office. Also, an image of the conference for folks looking for more information; also helped me avoid adding more context to where I was.
3) Subject Line: I'm on a break
This one's more recent, added a famous quote from one of my favourite TV shows to complement my message. Considering I managed to keep myself away from gadgets during a lockdown for 4 days, I guess F.R.E.I.N.D.S is what I missed the most.
Before you leave:
There you have it, hope this article helps and inspires at the same time and I get to see more of an individual's personality in their out of office emails. I'm attempting to get back to writing more regularly and getting back on LinkedIn after a long time, so if you liked what you read then do visit my blog and browse through my other LinkedIn articles (they are more technical than this one though). Your feedback will be highly appreciated and I hope to write again soon. Until next time, take care and stay safe.