The right way to tell people you’re OOF

With the festive season fast approaching now is a great time to let your work colleagues know when you’ll be out of the office (OOF) over the holiday period.

Like most things in life, there’s a right and a wrong way of doing this. Lots of people I know do it the wrong way. Here’s what I consider the right way.

  1. Firstly, tell your colleagues face-to-face, over the phone or by text. Use the most personal form of communication you know. After all, it’s in your interests to let people know when you’ll not be around so they can offer to help out if needed.
  2. Now, and only now, turn to Microsoft Outlook and send your colleagues a ‘meeting request’ so they can see your work absence in their calendars. This is where most people go wrong, so pay attention now:
    1. In Outlook, create a new meeting request (Ctrl+Shift+Q)
    2. In the To… field enter all the names of the people you wish to notify
    3. In the Subject field enter a sensible description in this format "[INFO] Allister Frost on holiday"
    4. Leave the location field blank
    5. Tick the All day event field, then select the start and end dates for your holiday period.
    6. This is the important bit. In Outlook 2007, click the attendee responses button on the ribbon and:
      1. Deselect ‘Request Responses’ (‘Allow New Time Proposals’ will be automatically deselected for you)
      2. Set the ‘Show time as’ filed to ‘Free’
      3. Set the ‘Reminder’ field to ‘None’
      4. Set the ‘Importance’ field to ‘Low’

        If you’ve done it right it should look like this:

    7. Optionally add some extra body copy in your meeting request explaining how you may be contacted while away from the office or who will be deputising for you in your absence.
    8. Press Send
    9. Sit back and wait for sarcastic emails from your colleagues reminding you that you’ve already had 16 holidays this year or that it would be simpler for you to notify them when you’re in the office, not out.

Congratulations! You have now created a user-friendly out of office notification in Outlook. You won’t get emails back telling you that people have declined your holiday invitation, no-one will suggest an alternative time for your holiday, you won’t trigger reminder alarms on your colleagues’s computers 18 hours before the start of your holiday, and you won’t clog up their calendars with irrelevant ‘busy time’. And, most importantly, you won’t annoy your colleagues every day you’re away by having sent them a silly subject line like "I’m sunning myself on the beach, glad you’re not here". And we can all be grateful for that!