"Twas the Night Before Christmas" - so set your auto-responder

“Twas a few nights before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a computer was stirring, not even a mouse
My out of office was switched on in Outlook with care
In hopes it’d let people know I’m not there

The children were nestled all snug in their beds
While the office party hangover danced in my head
Regretting having drunk that final nightcap
But settling down now to a long winter’s nap

When out on the web there arose such a clatter
Mike the developer fancies a natter-
“Let’s ditch Windows XP, and Adobe Flash,
Let’s switch to Linux and start using Sass.”

He’s cc’d in Sharon, he’s cc’d in Joe
He’s cc’d that guy on the board I don’t know
But myself and my colleagues have nothing to fear
We’ve got our auto-responders on ‘til New Year”

It’s that time of year again. Men on the moon, Michael Bublé on repeat, punch ups in Asda and that most cherished of modern Christmas traditions - switching on your out of office until January. Is there any better feeling than ticking that little box, shutting down Outlook and walking away from your desk out into the cold December air? Didn’t think so.

But before you do it, think for a minute. Have you done your best with your OOO? We’ve got a few tips for you to consider before flicking the switch.

Email Marketing Bristol

Does your message represent you and your company? If your communications with people are usually perfunctory, impersonal and to the point, then by all means, stick to the generic ‘thanks for your email’ script. But if you write tongue-in-cheek blog posts and tweet about Taylor Swift you might want to take a bit more time to craft a response that keeps that kind of conversation going. “The auto-reply email speaks volumes about someone's personal and business brand”, as Entrepreneur magazine puts it.

Although don’t be too off the wall - before you stick in a GIF of a Kardashian rolling their eyes, remember that anyone who might email you will be seeing it. There’s a balance to be reached.

Keep it brief

Whatever you say, say it quickly. No one wants to have to do close textual analysis to decipher your return date. Put the really important stuff front and centre. Follow the advice given by Lifehacker: the priorities should be to let people know that it’s an automated message, to let them know why you’re sending it, and what they should do about it - like email someone else, or wait for your return.

Urgent? Really?

Think carefully about telling people that they can call you if it’s urgent. People aren’t always the best judges of what is and isn’t urgent, and if you really want some quality time over Christmas, then don’t give them the chance. If there are people who really really really might need to call you during the Queen’s Speech, then it might be a good idea to let them know individually that they can do so. Better that than making the same commitment to anyone who fancies getting away from Nan’s sherry breath for a few minutes by bugging you about getting one of those big staplers in.

Proof read. Spell check is your friend.

Turn it off

And the golden rule - when the party’s over, when all that remains of the mince pies is heartburn and the clock’s wound round to 2016, don’t forget to switch your OOO off. Even better, set the end date on it when you switch it on. Remember, auto-responders aren’t for life, they’re just for Christmas.

Well, and holidays. And really busy periods. But you get the gist.

Let us know if you’ve ever had a Christmas out of office to remember, or one you’d rather forget. Just don’t be surprised if we don’t get back to you until the New Year...