One thing which many of us will be doing over the next few weeks will be setting up “out of office” emails (unless, like here at BMON, you get emails diverted to colleagues). I think there are two approaches you can take to this.
The first is the minimalist approach. If you write an “out of office” email which looks like it’s some short templated thing offered by your email application, don’t bother adding any personalised touches, because nobody will ever read it. They’ll get the message that you’re not there, however. Obviously you’ll have included a colleague’s email and telephone details for emergencies.
The second is the more creative, personalised approach. This is great, but it needs to be designed to be read. If the subject line, for example, is “AUTO: Fred Bloggs is out of the office (returning 01/10/2014)”, hardly any recipient will open the email to read it unless they’re desperate, so you’re wasting your time being creative or informative with the content. Just get to the point. If you’ve written something which you’d like people to read, then make the subject line a bit different, and play with the design a bit.
I rather enjoy people being amusing with their message, although don’t make me jealous with your holiday details, especially if it’s my custom which is indirectly funding the trip. I quite like the messages I receive occasionally which try to give me something fun to do as compensation for being the person who’s not on holiday. Examples include: “You might like to watch this video” or “take this quiz”. However, most people want to keep things more formal, in which case “you might like to read this new white paper” or “this new case study” would be an acceptable alternative.
The most important thing, however, is to let people know when you’re back. If it’s too far in the future for their needs, they’ll contact a colleague, or if not, they can make a note in their diaries to contact you then. For that reason, it might make sense to announce your return as being a day later than it really is, to allow you the chance to get your feet under the desk again.