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Holiday “Out of Office” Etiquette Done Right

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As the holidays approach, it’s probably a good time to brush up on out-of-office etiquette. When you’re going to be away from your computer or desk for an extended period of time, it’s always good manners to have your voicemail and emails reflect your schedule and whom to contact in your absence.

Most email programs and smartphones have the ability to send out an automatic message to people whom contact you. Include when they can expect to hear back from you, who they might contact in your absence and, if necessary, how to reach you in case of an emergency.

For voicemail, be sure the message you leave on your phone is clear. It helps to listen to the final message before saving it. If you’re saying the name of someone for the caller to contact in your absence, please clearly pronounce that person’s name and repeat it twice if necessary. If it’s a complicated name, it helps to spell it out, especially if they are instructed to e-mail the person. If you’re leaving a number for them to call, it’s also helpful to repeat the phone number twice. And say it slowly.

I’ve received many messages without this critical information. It took a little more work on my part to find the correct person to contact and the answers I needed. It wasn’t respectful of my time and didn’t show a lot of consideration.

It’s also good manners to be kind to the person who will be covering for you, so tie up as many loose ends as possible before you depart. I know it’s easy to want to get into “vacation mode” before it actually begins, but it shows true professionalism, and good manners, when you take the necessary steps to communicate before heading out the door to celebrate. 

Suzanne Willis is the founder of Willis Consulting & Communications in Naples, which specializes in contemporary business, social and children’s etiquette. 

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