Out-of-office is more than a pre-holiday chore

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It’s often the last thing you do before jetting off on holiday. But for some, the out of office is not a last minute chore but an excuse to show off their personality.

Thanks to the peak holiday season, your inbox is probably clogged with these automatic replies. They're usually written with one foot out of the door, with many keeping straight to the facts. No one has ever accused an out-of-office reply of being verbose.

The likelihood is that you’d expect the accountancy profession to live up to the born dull stereotype and reply as such. But Grant Thornton’s CEO Sacha Romanovitch is bucking this trend.

Grant Thornton CEO’s witty email

As featured in a quirky BBC feature this week, Romanovitch has been highlighted as one of the few spending as much time composing a witty out of office as they would with other pre-holiday rituals such as packing.

Signposting that switching off should be considered the norm, Romanovitch’s out of office reads:

“I'm off with my family right now, back on 23 July. I'll be reading, diving and playing with my boys while they still want to play with me!

"My great team will be dealing with my emails while I'm off ensuring you get support from the right people to keep things moving."

Romanovitch’s email ditty is featured alongside a jokey email that threatens to delete multiple emails until one remains and another inspired by Rick Astley’s ‘never going to give you up’ hit.

Client service expectations

Aside from adding humour, the out-of-office is just another strand to firms like Kinder Pocock and Soaring Falcon’s client service strategy.

Anyone emailing Soaring Falcon’s founder Alex Falcon Huerta during Accountex this year would have received an automatic reply that read:

“Thank you for your email. We are currently at an Accounting Conference getting insights into Brexit, Making Tax Digital and all the new technology - so we are better placed to advise you.”

Falcon Huerta – who ironically was out of office when AccountingWEB emailed her – said she elaborates beyond the standard “I’m away” because it’s important to show the human side. “We are not robots and we have to do stuff outside of client work or CPD,” she said.

“If clients read ‘I’m at a conference’ it may let them realise - is there query really that urgent? Can it wait? They know what I’m up to but they also know when I’m done I will get back to them.”

It’s a similar story for Accounting Excellence’s 2017 client service winner Sharon Pocock. During busy periods like self assessment season, Pocock uses her out-of-office reply to support client expectation and demands.

Pocock's email read: “We are now in our busy period until the end of January so we are going to be under immense pressure, and may take longer than usual to respond to emails

“We are remedying this with a new member of staff starting 3 January 2018, but until then please bear with us, we are only human and we are doing our very best to look after you.”

AccountingWEB community’s reaction

Unlike Falcon Huerta’s sociable “having beer and cocktails” holiday out-of-office, some AccountingWEB members on Any Answers veered towards “boring business-like” replies.

Others like Heriot Hughes, however, embraced the light-hearted out-of-office: “We are in the professional services industry but we can still have a personality and be fun can't we?”  

AccountingWEB member Trevenna also finds the personable approach works well with their client base. Confirming that a practitioner is never really out of office, the AccountingWEB member's out-of-office reads:

“I am currently on a well deserved holiday. Even though I am away from the office, I still have my phone on me and as much as I will pretend I am not going to check my emails, we both know I probably will!” reads their out-of-office reply. 

Do you even need an out-of-office?

However, the out of office instant reply is not the only option. Practice owner Maslins, for example, shares inboxes between staff members. It's a tactic that removes the drudgery of returning from your sunny break to a cavalcade of emails. 

Some AccountingWEB members did have reservations about the privacy issues that this could cause (“If a client emails you saying a staff member is crap, then said staff member may well be able to see that email even if they weren't cc'd in on it,” admitted Maslins).

But it does solve any need to come up with a witty out of office reply or using it at all as someone will always be there to cover any urgent queries during absences.

Do you spend more than five minutes composing your out-of-office? Does a jokey out-of-office break the unwritten business etiquette rules?

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.

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03rd Aug 2018 11:44

Enjoyed reading this. I am off on my own holidays in a week's time so maybe I'll experiment with this approach!

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