This is a public service announcement that I also need to remember: Use Your Autoresponder!
If you will be away from work (or unable to reply to emails) for more than a day, use your email program’s “autorespond” feature to set up an automatic message telling people when they can expect you to be available again. Just a simple, “Thank you for your email. I am away from my desk until [day/date] and will get back to you when I return” will do. No other details are necessary. (“Thanks for your email. I told my boss I injured my back but I am on a 7-day golf vacation to Hilton Head. My home at 123 Shady Lane is unattended, the key is under the fake rock to the right of the front porch, and my valuables are upstairs in the top left-drawer of the dresser in the master bedroom. I will get back to you when I return.”)
Same is true if your primary mode of communication is your cell phone. For example, our real estate agent in Indiana records a new voice mail every morning informing callers when he will be returning messages that day. (Then, of course, he actually returns calls like he said he would.)
With an autoresponse, people know that even though you’re unavailable for a time, you are on top of things. Without it, you just look unresponsive and therefore unprofessional.
I’ll confess, I am not always great about keeping current myself. Over the weekend I finally changed our home answering message, which had said we would return calls at the end of March Madness — which ended almost two months ago. I’m definitely learning. But together, we can use autoresponses to improve our communication and make the world a better place.