Don't Bother Me: Implement an "Out of Office" System

It always seems the day we take away from the office to take care of personal business is undoubtedly the day when we receive the most emails, texts, phone calls, etc. Yesterday was a perfect example of when we had to go out of town and we were met with a barrage of messages. We simply weren't prepared for the onslaught and were left answering messages well into the night. Thankfully there are a few steps you can take to help prevent this from happening.

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Implementing an "out of office" system, if only for a day, is very important. If people rely on you for work information or if there are family and friends hoping to get in touch with you, you should consider it a responsibility to take steps in preventing a communication breakdown.

Step 1: inform friends/family/colleagues of your planned absence. Either a work-wide email, Facebook post, or tweet usually does the trick. This way, people will have a general idea of why you are not able to immediately respond to them if you're out running errands all day. Hopefully this will prevent the amount of messages you'll be sent throughout the day as people will refrain from sending non-important communications.

Step 2: make an "out of office" auto-response. These auto-responders will immediately send a pre-written email to anyone who attempts to send you an email that day. People typically try to explain they are away from their desk/office for ____ time, when they will return, and how to contact them if there is an emergency. Here are the instructions on how to make one for Outlook, Mail, and Postbox. These auto responders are often used when people go on vacation for a week or so but it doesn't seem many use them for day trips. We encourage people to use these auto responders more liberally in the future as they can be a helpful tool to inform the workplace as well as friends and family.

Step 3: for those tablet folks out there, we think it would be very helpful to set aside an hour of your day (lunch?) to sit down at a coffee shop, tap into the wireless hotspot, and reply to all emails you've received thus far. It would also be good to browse through your texts/voicemails for any major messages which would need an immediate response. This way you don't have to constantly interrupt your business to check each and every message that comes in. Know that you can do it once and be done with it until the end of the day.

(Both Images: Flickr member Ed Yourdon licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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