I take a lot of pride in recording my Out of Office voicemail greeting and even more care when scribing my Out of Office email response. I use my voicemail OOO sparingly, I must admit. I only do it when I know I’ll be on extensive air travel or in a conference which will dominate the lion’s share of the business day. If I’m simply out on appointments or on car or train travel, my delays are going to be far more minimal and thus voicemail can be caught in a matter of hours. I’m markedly more liberal with my OOO for email. Since I’ve long prided myself on responding to email requests or questions in minutes (even seconds), a half-days delay, or even a delay of a few hours, I’ve deemed inexcusable. By having a well crafted OOO response to emails, I’ve bought myself time and I’ve preempted any frustrations that would have otherwise been generated by my lapse.
But as careful as I am about my own OOO, I’m also quite critical of others. At most, as a professional, you have a one business day grace period for taking a voicemail or email message off that’s no longer applicable. And there’s no tolerance for reactivating an OOO that is outdated. If I call you today, in August, and from your voicemail I gather that you will be out of the office for the duration Martin Luther King Day and the week that follows, I will make the assumption that you are no longer gainfully employed by that organization.
What people don’t realize is, just as you would take care in crafting a thoughtful reply to an email, your OOO is the surrogate for that thoughtful reply. So it better be equally thoughtful – because oh, by the way, that reply is being sent to anyone that writes you on that day. It’s another opportunity to be clever – think of it as a free marketing piece. Why not take advantage of it? And same goes for voicemail. Your ability to deliver an important message while still being memorable will go a long way. And a misstep here can be an all too frustrating and fatal flaw.